The United Nations Global Compact as a Facilitator of the Lockean Social Contract

Bäumlisberger Damian

The United Nations Global Compact (UNGC) has difficulties in attracting new voluntary members and inciting them to implement its ten principles. The present article analyzes this implementation deficit from the perspective of Lockean social contract theory and derives new strategies for reducing it. On this view, the UNGC presents itself as the attempt to realize a set of moral norms, typically enforced by an impartial minimal state, protecting its citizens from violations of their natural rights, negative externalities and discrimination by bribed officials. It will only succeed in facilitating the realization of those norms on a strictly voluntary basis, if it manages to overcome the underlying n-person prisoner's dilemma. This requires the existence of a critical mass k<N of conditionally moral firms, which are willing to observe the UNGC principles and to resist the temptation to free ride on their observance by others, if it does not disadvantage them in comparison to their situation in a state of universal non-observance. Four contracting problems can impede the conclusion of this Lockean social contract. The UNGC has a slim chance of overcoming its implementation deficit on a non-coercive basis by cultivating four institutional capabilities assisting conditionally moral firms in surmounting those four problems of voluntary norm compliance.

Publication type
Article in Journal

Peer reviewed

Publication status


Journal of Business Ethics

Nov 4, 2017

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