On June 25, Erika Karp addressed the General Assembly of the United Nations as a representative of the global business community, on behalf of the “UN Global Compact + 15” Anniversary conference, themed “Business as a Force for Good.”   The text of her remarks appears below.

Excellencies, Delegates, and Colleagues of all Genders: It is a privilege to address you today.

“No legacy is so rich as honesty,” Shakespeare wrote in “All’s Well that Ends Well.”

In speaking of the dynamics of the global capital markets, so many parts are in motion; and so much is at stake.

For “Business to Be a Force for Good” we need:

  • Honesty regarding the daunting challenges of the 21st Century;
  • Honesty about the true cost of business as usual as we move towards a world of 9 billion people;
  • Honesty about the costs in terms of financial capital, human capital and natural capital that it will take to address the massive imperatives of our day … climate change, security, infrastructure, healthcare, education, gender equality, poverty and economic inclusion;
  • Honesty in admitting that neither the public sector nor the private sector alone can mobilize trillions of dollars.

Rather, there must be a new social contract, with Honesty, Transparency, Collaboration, Entre-preneurship and great Corporate Governance leading the way.

Investors and businesses must acknowledge that we are in a world with heightened complexity and volatility as far as the eye can see…. We can either let it paralyze us, or ignite us!!

Just as we know that in order to address the realities of climate change we will need technological transformation, we know that to address all of our sustainable development goals, we will need corporate transformation and entrepreneurship.

We need to transform the companies of the world into creative, productive, entrepreneurial juggernauts… and we need to finance these companies, large and small.

We need to spark a powerful wave of innovation the likes of which the world has never known.  And we can do this.

We can do this if we empower Leaders, CEOs and Boards of Directors who are true Stewards of Corporate Legacy.  Leaders who believe that entrepreneurship is not about an exit strategy, but about a Legacy… A legacy of entrepreneurship both by new corporate entities and from inside the world’s largest and greatest companies.  Entrepreneurship embracing all the creativity, risks, rewards, accountability that it entails.

This is what will drive growth… the economic engine turned on by the private sector. Not by short-term monetary stimulus, but by long-term capital formation and job creation which moves us towards global prosperity.

This is why the time is now for the work of the Global Compact to shine: 15 years of leading the way towards Corporate Sustainability…. Ultimately, we will simply call this Corporate Excellence: “The relentless pursuit of material progress towards a more regenerative and inclusive economy.”

We needs Boards of Directors who are Stewards of Corporate Legacy.

We need Investors who are Stewards of Financial, Human, and Natural Capital.

A dozen factors are converging to show that the time is now.  This time is unprecedented.  There is a concentration of economic power that has never been seen before…. Companies with the power of nations… Companies with the wealth of nations.  Unprecedented regulatory scrutiny, social media and extreme and instant transparency; big data turning noise into predictive insight; massive intergenerational wealth transfer, the asset owners, asset managers, investment banks, accountants, consultants, exchanges, standards bodies all coming into alignment for the first time. We face an unprecedented confluence of factors shifting the dynamics of the capital markets.

And so it is important to be honest about who is great, and at what. The private sector is great at capital formation. Capitalism is great at facilitating global prosperity. It is time to be honest about the deployment of financial capital, human capital, and natural capital.  Be honest about what it takes to truly build the wealth of nations:  It takes transparency and collaboration.  It takes the private sector AND the public sector… working together.

Back to Shakespeare and The Merchant of Venice, where he wrote:  “If to do, were as easy as to know what were good to do, then churches had been chapels, and poor men’s cottages prince’s palaces.”

It’s not enough to just know what to do; it is being able to execute!

It takes the Force of Will, to make Business a Force for Good.  It takes an understanding of “The Fierce Urgency of Now.”

It takes a true Global Compact.


Erika Karp
is the Founder and CEO of Cornerstone Capital Group.