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Frequently Asked Questions

General Communication on Progress (COP)

What should I include in a COP?

Each COP must contain the following three elements:
  • A statement by the chief executive expressing continued support for the Global Compact and renewing your company’s ongoing commitment to the initiative and its principles.
  • A description of practical actions (i.e., disclosure of any relevant policies, procedures, activities) that your company has taken (or plans to undertake) to implement the Global Compact principles in each of the four issue areas (human rights, labour, environment, anti-corruption).
  • A measurement of outcomes (i.e., degree to which targets/performance indicators were met, or other, qualitative or quantitative, measurements of results).
  • For more details, please refer to the COP Policy and COP Policy Summary.

How do I submit a COP?

For a COP to be considered an official submission, it must be directly uploaded to our system. COPs will not be accepted if they are emailed or mailed to the United Nations Global Compact Office.
If you would like to submit your COP, please log in to the UN Global Compact website, click the “COPs” tab in the header navigation, and then click on “New Communication on Progress”.
 
The COP submission page offers the following options:
  • Basic Template: If you are new to the Global Compact, this easy-to-use Template will help you create your company’s first COP.
  • COP Submission: Use this tab if you have already created your company’s COP (either integrated into your sustainability or financial report or as a standalone report) and if you are not aiming to qualify for the GC Advanced level. Here, you can upload your COP in PDF format.
  • Advanced Level: Use this tab if your company’s COP demonstrates a higher level of performance and disclosure and you would like to qualify for the GC Advanced level.
  • Grace Letter: You may also submit a grace letter for a 90-day extension to your COP deadline. You may do this once every reporting period.
  • For more information:

How often does my company need to submit a new COP?

Companies are required to submit a first COP within one year from the date of joining the Global Compact. All subsequent COPs are due within one year following the previous COP submission.
 
Should a company fail to meet a COP submission deadline, it will be marked as “non-communicating”. Companies that have been non-communicating for longer than 12 months will be expelled from the Global Compact.

When is the COP Submission deadline?

Each company has its own deadline based on its date of joining and previous COP submissions. The COP submission deadline is displayed on your company’s Global Compact public profile. To find your company’s page, please use the participant search on the Global Compact website. Please note that all COPs are due at 23:00 UTC on the designated date.
 
You will also receive reminders of your company’s COP submission deadline in the monthly newsletter and COP reminder emails sent from the Global Compact Office. Additionally, you can find your COP due date by logging into the Global Compact website.

How will I know that my company’s COP has been received?

To confirm that your COP has been received, please use the participant search for your organization on the Global Compact website. If your COP has successfully been submitted and approved, it will appear on the publicly searchable “Participant Information” page under “Communication on Progress”.

My company has little or no experience in writing Communications on Progress. Where can I find guidance?

The Global Compact website showcases various tools to help your company develop its COP. This webpage section includes:
  • A Basic COP template available in multiple languages
  • A Practical Guide to COPs
  • GRI Reporting Templates
  • Other useful information

Does the Global Compact Office review COPs?

The Global Compact Office does not routinely review COPs. However, it actively encourages stakeholders and the public at large to do so. As a platform for dialogue and learning, the Global Compact Office does not pass judgment on company policies or practices on the basis of COPs. Nor does the Global Compact Office express opinions on the accuracy of statements contained in COPs. Consistent with the COP concept, such matters are for the participants’ own stakeholders to assess.
 

Can I obtain a COP deadline extension?

The UN Global Compact acknowledges that there may be circumstances which prevent companies from meeting their COP deadlines. If your company is facing such circumstances, you may apply for an extension (maximum: 90 days) by sending a Grace Letter. Companies are limited to one Grace Letter per reporting period.
To submit a Grace Letter, please follow these steps:
  1. Click on the “COPs” tab in the header navigation.
  2. Click on “New Communication on Progress”.
  3. Click on the ”Grace Letter” tab.
  4. Submit a Grace Letter explaining that you are requesting additional time to submit your COP and why you are making this request. This letter is made public in keeping with the UNGCs open and transparent nature. The letter should be:
    1. addressed to the Global Compact Office and stakeholders, an
    2. signed by the person requesting the deadline extension
For more information:

What does the term “Report or Explain” in the COP Policy mean?

The UN Global Compact Office acknowledges that, in certain exceptional circumstances, one or more of the four issue areas may not be relevant to a company’s operations. If this applies to your company, please explain in your COP why a particular issue area is not relevant to your company’s context of operation (e.g., criterion is deemed immaterial to the business, legal prohibitions, privacy considerations, competitive advantage). Such an explanation satisfies a company’s obligation to describe actions in a particular issue area.
 

What happens if I submit a COP that does not meet the minimum requirements?

Your company should submit a COP that is as comprehensive as possible. If your company submits a COP that does not meet the expectations of the GC Active level, your company will be placed on the Learner Platform.
 
Any submission that does not contain a COP will be rejected by the Global Compact Office.
Companies placed on the Learner Platform will be given 12 additional months to amend their COP to comply with the GC Active level requirements. Such companies will be provided with additional guidance from the Global Compact Office.
 
Note: Companies may be placed on the Learner Platform only once. If a company does not submit a COP qualifying for the GC Active level during the 12-month grace period, the company will be labeled non-communicating. Such companies will be expelled if they do not submit a COP qualifying for the GC Active level within the following 12-month period.

Does the chief executive need to provide a statement of continued support every year?

Yes. Companies must provide a statement of continued support from their chief executive every year.

Do COPs have to be written in English?

No. COPs should be written in the language(s) understood by the majority of your company’s stakeholders. The Global Compact Office welcomes COPs in all languages.

What does “non-communicating” mean? How can non-communicating companies resume good standing?

If your company is labeled as “non-communicating”, it means that it has failed to submit a timely COP as outlined in the COP Policy. Companies who remain non-communicating for 12 consecutive months will be expelled from the Global Compact.
 
In order to resume good standing with the Global Compact, please submit a COP.

How can expelled companies rejoin the Global Compact?

To rejoin the Global Compact, please re-apply by sending a letter of re-commitment and a current COP to our Participant Management team at participants@unglobalcompact.org.

What should I do if I am not receiving regular communications from the Global Compact Office?

If you are not receiving regular communications, you must update your records in the Global Compact’s database. Any time your company would like to add a new contact or update an old contact’s information, you should make sure that our database reflects this change.
 
To update an existing contact:
  1. Log in to the Global Compact website using your username and password.
  2. Click on the “Contacts” tab of your dashboard.
  3. Click on the pencil picture under the appropriate contact name to modify its details.
To create a new contact:
  1. Log in to the Global Compact website using your username and password.
  2. Click on the “Contacts” tab of your dashboard.
  3. Click on “New contact”.
  4. Complete the contact details.
If you have lost your username and/or password:
  1. Go to the log in page of the Global Compact website.
  2. Click on the link saying, “Forgot your username or password?”
  3. Enter your email address. You will receive an email with instructions on choosing a new password.

How can I find contact information for a Global Compact representative in my country?

This information is easily accessible online:
  1. Go to the Local Network webpage on the Global Compact website.
  2. Click on the drop-down menu labeled “Select a network. . .”
  3. Select the appropriate country
If your country is not listed, you are encouraged to contact a network representative from a country in your region.

Am I able to edit or delete past COPs?

The creation of a library of COPs (past and present) helps stakeholders and companies chart the progress a company is making in implementing the Global Compact principles. Therefore, COPs that are submitted to the Global Compact website cannot be edited or deleted.

May I submit supplementary information along with my COP?

Yes, with two caveats:
  1. Submit any supplementary documents at the same time as your submit your COP. This ensures that your company’s COP is properly differentiated.
  2. Share all supplementary documents publicly. While the Global Compact is a platform for you to reach your stakeholders, you should share the information with your stakeholders independently, e.g., through a website or a direct mailing.
We encourage participants to include all supplementary information with their COP submission, to ensure that all material information is available in one place for stakeholders.

May I use the Global Compact logo in my COP?

For information on using the Global Compact logo in company publications, please refer to the Global Compact Logo Policy.

Can my company still participate in the Notable COP Programme?

The Notable COP Programme was discontinued in 2010. If you want your COP to be highlighted on the Global Compact website, please consider submitting a COP to the GC Advanced level.
 

Should the activities of subsidiaries be reflected in the COP?

A company's commitment to join the Global Compact applies not only to its headquarters, but also to all subsidiaries and local branches. It is important that this commitment is spread throughout the company's operations around the world. More details on subsidiary engagement can be found here.

 

General Differentiation FAQs

I don’t know which level of differentiation is appropriate for my company.

Companies should start by reading the qualification section on the GC Active level webpage. This level will be appropriate for the majority of Global Compact participants.

If you think that your company has already reached a high level of performance and disclosure, read the qualification section on the GC Advanced level webpage. All companies are encouraged to strive for the GC Advanced level. COPs that qualify for the GC Advanced level will be highlighted on the Global Compact website.

Do all Global Compact participants have to participate in the Differentiation Programme?

All business participants will be differentiated automatically based on the COP they submitted. If a company chooses to participate at the GC Active level, the Differentiation Programme places no additional burden on that company. Note, however, that under the COP Policy, all companies must cover all four issue areas (i.e., human rights, labour, environment, and anti-corruption) in their COPs.

The expectations for non-business participants have not changed.

 

Moving from the Learner Platform to the GC Active Level – FAQs

What is the Learner Platform?

The Learner Platform was created to help those participants who have demonstrated a commitment toward progress and transparency by submitting a COP, but have not yet achieved the level of disclosure and transparency expected for the GC Active level.

For more information, please see the Learner Platform webpage.

What happens if a company in the Learner Platform doesn’t submit a COP that qualified for the GC Active level within 12 months?

Companies that fail to submit a COP that qualifies for the GC Active level within 12 months will become “non-communicating”.

Companies that continue to submit COPs which do not qualify for the GC Active level will receive no additional time.

Participating at the GC Advanced Level

How can my company submit a COP at the GC Advanced level?

Business participants that submit a COP that meets the requirements of the GC Active level can classify the COP as “GC Advanced” by:

1. Describing how they meet or plan to meet advanced criteria in their annual COP; the criteria cover the following areas:

  • Corporate sustainability governance and leadership
  • Implementing the ten principles into strategies and operations
    • Robust management policies and procedures in Human Rights, Labour, Environment, and Anti-corruption
  • UN goals and issues

2. Submitting a COP to the UN Global Compact COP Database, which includes completing a self-assessment (download in English or Español) regarding how COP content addresses the criteria and associated best practices. 

For more information on the requirements of the GC Advanced level, please visit the Differentiation Programme webpage and review the COP Policy. For more information on how to submit a COP to the GC Advanced level, please consult the step-by-step guide. View the list of GC Advanced COPs.

Does my company have to meet all of the GC Advanced Criteria?

For a COP to qualify for the GC Advanced level, it must demonstrate that the company has either met or has specific plans to meet each of the criteria. However, companies do not need to implement all best practices under each criterion. For more information, please see below, “How many best practices do I have to check off to satisfy a criterion?” and “One or more of the criteria are not relevant to us. Can we still qualify for the GC Advanced level?”

To qualify for the GC Advanced level, does my company have to fill out the COP self-assessment?

Yes. All companies that wish to qualify for the GC Advanced level must fill out the corresponding COP self-assessment. The COP self-assessment must reflect information located in your company’s COP. Results of the COP self-assessment are made publicly available on the Global Compact website and are linked to the company’s COP.

Requiring all GC Advanced level participants to fill out the COP self-assessment increases the accessibility and comparability of information. It is also a tool for companies to internally evaluate their current level of integration of the principles and to plan for future actions.

By creating a public summary of the COP self-assessment, stakeholders are better able to monitor progress and performance. Those who are interested may easily compare the best practices adopted by all participants, or any subset of participants (e.g. in a certain market or industry), whose COPs qualify for the GC Advanced level.

How did the Global Compact Office update the GC Advanced level in 2013?

Effective 1 March 2013, the Global Compact updated the GC Advanced level to allow all business participants to aspire to a single set of criteria that is more closely aligned with the Blueprint for Corporate Sustainability Leadership.  Changes include:

  • Modification of wording of some existing criteria to further align them with the Blueprint on Corporate Sustainability Leadership
  • Cross-reference of the criteria on “Robust Human Rights Management Policies and Procedures” to specific elements of the Human Rights COP Reporting Guidance
  • Removal of Blueprint Dimension 3, “Engaging with the UN Global Compact” from the GC Advanced criteria. This information will be collected in the Global Compact participant profile.
  • Placement of former Criterion 24 on external verification of the COP as part of the introductory questions at the beginning of the COP self-assessment
  • Inclusion of a question on Business and Peace in the introductory questions, along with 3 follow-up questions for companies that have operations in high-risk and/or conflict-affected areas
  • New options for companies to: explain the reason(s) for omission of a given criterion from their COP; indicate future plans to fulfill a given criterion that have not yet been implemented; highlight other emerging or established best practices not found in the COP self-assessment

Download a PDF version of the COP self-assessment in English or Español

How many best practices do I have to check off to satisfy a criterion?

Companies must implement and report on best practices that are relevant to their context of operation to meet the associated criterion. At a minimum, companies should report on the implementation (or their specific plans of implementation) of at least one best practice under each criterion. The number that should be implemented, as well as the degree to which they are implemented, will vary from company to company. Companies should consider their size, geography, industry, and governance structure, as well as any other relevant information, when selecting the best practices to implement. Over time, companies are strongly encouraged to adopt all best practices relevant to their contexts of operation.

Where appropriate, companies may implement and select “Other established or emerging best practices” where such practices satisfy the associated criterion, either wholly or partially.

The Global Compact Office encourages participants to continue to innovate and go beyond the suggested best practices.

What is the difference between a criterion and a best practice?

The GC Advanced level requires participants to meet or have specific plans to meet each of advanced criteria. These criteria are very broad, and may be met through the implementation of a variety of established or emerging best practices relevant to a company’s context of operation.

3 - 7 best practices are suggested under each criterion. Best practices, already adopted by a number of companies, are widely seen as effective in supporting a company’s efforts to reach relevant sustainability goals. The COP self-assessment asks companies which of the listed best practices have been implemented.

My company implements a certain best practice, but we do not report on it in our COP. Can we check the box?

No. The COP self-assessment should reflect the contents of a participant’s COP. To check off a best practice box on the COP self-assessment, a company must either:

  1. implement the best practice and demonstrate in its COP how it implemented the best practice, or
  2. have specific plans to implement the best practice, and demonstrate in its COP how it plans to implement the best practice.

My company does not currently meet, nor does it have specific plans to meet, all the criteria for the GC Advanced level.  Can we still utilize the criteria of the GC Advanced level?

Yes. When a company only partially fills out the COP self-assessment at the GC Advanced level (i.e., leaves some criteria blank) and submits its COP, its answers immediately become public and its COP more accessible to stakeholders, but such COPs will not qualify for the GC Advanced level. This is a useful way to show your stakeholders the progress you have made and to compare yourself against other companies.

Alternatively, your company may submit its COP to the GC Active level. All companies that submit COPs to the GC Active level are strongly encouraged to use the advanced criteria and associated best practices as guidance for implementing the Global Compact principles.

My company qualifies for one of the GRI G3.1 application levels or is 'in accordance' with G4. Do I still have to fill out the COP self-assessment for my COP to qualify at the GC Advanced level?

Yes. All participants who submit a GC Advanced COP are still expected to complete the COP self-assessment and fulfill each of the GC Advanced criteria. The Global Compact Office encourages companies to utilize the tools provided by GRI for reporting. Reports that qualify for a G3.1 application level or are 'in accordance' with G4 should have relatively little difficulty qualifying for the GC Advanced level.

How does integrated reporting relate to communicating progress?

The Global Compact encourages companies to use other complementary reporting frameworks, including the International Integrated Reporting Framework currently under development, to create their COPs as they see fit. To learn about the Global Compact's take on the emerging integrated reporting movement, please see a two-page Brief for Business Participants: Integrated Reporting.

One or more of the criteria are not relevant to us. Can our COP still qualify for the GC Advanced level?

To varying degrees, all criteria are relevant to all companies, with few exceptions. As a rule, companies must implement (or have specific plans to implement) and report upon their progress on each of the criteria. However, as stated above, companies are not expected to implement all associated best practices. In exceptional cases where a COP does not address a given criterion, the reason(s) for omission should be thoroughly explained in the COP (e.g., criterion is deemed immaterial to the business, legal prohibitions, privacy considerations, competitive advantage). The Global Compact refers to this as the “report or explain” principle.

What is the relationship between the Blueprint for Corporate Sustainability Leadership and the GC Advanced level and criteria?

The Blueprint is a broad document intended to “outline a model for corporate sustainability leadership”. The Global Compact Office and its operational extensions are realizing this model through the delivery of needed resources, mechanisms, and platforms. The GC Advanced level is one of those mechanisms, as it suggests to companies the means to implement this model and allows for transparent disclosure.
The Blueprint outlines its goals with three overlapping dimensions:

  • Implementing the Ten Principles into Strategies and Operations
  • Taking Action in Support of Broader UN Goals and Issues
  • Engaging with the UN Global Compact

A company that implements and reports upon each Blueprint dimension’s key Components will satisfy the criteria of the GC Advanced level. However, the Blueprint itself does not define for companies how to implement its Components. Through the suggestion of best practices, the GC Advanced level is a mechanism intended to guide companies on the best ways to, first, effectively implement the ten principles into strategies and operations and, second, encourage companies to take action in support of UN goals. Thus, the GC Advanced criteria expand upon the Blueprint to:

  • Cover each of the 4 issue areas individually, and
  • Understand (and benchmark) the management processes that companies put in place to implement each of the issue areas.

The criteria are consistent with the expectations of the Blueprint, as well as the UN Global Compact Management Model, the Anti-Corruption Reporting Guidance, the Ruggie “Protect, Respect, Remedy” framework, and the Human Rights COP Reporting Guidance.

By defining expectations in greater detail, the GC Advanced level criteria can help companies that want to follow the Blueprint to:

  • gain a better understanding of the best practices expected of them,
  • increase the transparency of their actions, and, therefore,
  • give stakeholders the necessary information to accurately evaluate them.

In short, the GC Advanced criteria cover aspects of the Blueprint that can be most easily operationalized and reported upon (mainly including issues related to strategy, governance and the internalization of the ten principles). Please see above, “How did the Global Compact Office update the GC Advanced level in 2013?”

Contact

COP Team
UN Global Compact
cop@unglobalcompact.org

(Last updated: 28 February 2013)