The Global Sullivan Principles – Ethics Paper
The original Sullivan Principles were developed by a Baptist Minister named Reverend Leon Sullivan. He established the principles as a code of conduct for human rights and equal opportunity for companies operating in
South Africa. The original Sullivan Principles were designed to help persuade U.S. companies with investments in South Africa to treat their South African employees with the same regard as they do their American colleagues and friends. At the time of the development of the original Sullivan Principles in 1977, Reverend Sullivan was the first African American appointed to the Board of Directors of General Motors. During this time, General Motors was the leading employer of blacks in South Africa; therefore Sullivan decided to use his position on the Board of Directors to apply economic pressure to end an unjust system of segregation. On three different occasions, Reverend Sullivan was able to bring 25 top CEO’s from around the world together for a private summit to discuss ending apartheid in South Africa. At the end of the summit all 25 companies were behind Sullivan’s efforts to end apartheid. The results of these meetings have been known as one of Reverend Sullivan’s most important accomplishments which in return broke the back of apartheid in South Africa and led to its independence and the presidency of Nelson Mandela.
At the request of world and industry leaders, in 1999 Reverend Sullivan re-launched the principles in what is now known as the Global Sullivan Principles for Corporate Social Responsibility. At a special meeting, Sullivan had the UN Secretary-General formally introduce the new principles to the corporate world. As per the preamble of the Global Sullivan Principles, they were established to urge companies to do the following:
1. Support economic, social and political justice by companies where they do business.
2. Support human rights and encourage equal opportunity at all levels of employment, including racial and gender diversity on decision making committees and boards.
3. To train and advance disadvantaged workers for technical, supervisory and management opportunities.
4. To assist with greater tolerance and understanding among peoples; thereby helping to improve the quality of life for communities, workers and children with dignity and equality. (The Global Sullivan Principles, Preamble)
These newly formed Principles call for multinational companies to play a much larger role in the advancement of human rights and social justice. Reverend Sullivan invites all companies, no matter what size or type of business, to become an endorser of the Principles. If a company wishes to be associated with the Principles, they are expected to provide information which publicly demonstrates its commitment to the principles. Each endorser of the Principles must take part in an annual reporting process, which documents their process of bringing social responsibility to life. These reports are displayed on the Global Sullivan Principles website. As I read through the list of endorsers of the Global Sullivan Principles, I was excited to see the City of Houston listed as one.