Ethical capitalism no longer pays the bills

On 4 June, 2004, Kofi Annan ascended the dais at the Assembly Hall to conclude a meeting that would leave an indelible mark on the world for the next two decades. There, speaking to nearly 500 global decision makers in attendance, Annan spoke in soaring rhetoric about a new paradigm for government, business and social leadership. A new era of hope was ushered in.

Almost 20 years later, the first Global Compact Leadership Summit is considered the birthplace of the ESG movement, a kind of constitutional convention for global “governance”. Annan had been championing this new approach since at least 1999, when, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, he announced the creation of “a global compact of shared values and principles, which will give a human face to the global market”. The aim would be to create a “compact” of agreements that could keep up with the radical change being wrought by globalising markets. It would, of course, do much more than that.