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United Nations Global Compact Signatory Underscores “Mission Is Higher than All of Us”

With UL's formal, external pledge to progress the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, support is steadily increasing as employees become more aware of not only the significance of the goals but the company’s strong commitment to them.

UL employees proudly pose on a wooden bridge on which has been hung a banner announcing 125 streams for 125 years.

January 14, 2020

Organizations big and small are stepping up to publicly commit to doing their part to respect human rights, act ethically and adopt environmentally friendly technologies. Over 13,000 companies from 161 countries have signed the United Nations Global Compact, a non-binding pact to encourage businesses worldwide to adopt sustainable and socially responsible policies.

UL joined the effort when UL CEO and President Jennifer Scanlon endorsed the company’s application to become a Signatory to the United Nations Global Compact. By signing on to what has become known as the world’s largest corporate sustainability initiative, UL expressed its intention to “inform, influence and inspire others along our path to a sustainable future.”

For those not familiar with the United Nations Global Compact, its goals are lofty, with human rights, labor, environment and anti-corruption, making up the contract’s four pillars. Principles, such as not contributing to human rights abuse, eliminating forced labor and encouraging the development of environmentally friendly technologies, give context to the pillars, essentially creating a living charter from which to map out corporate strategies, policies and actions.

Barbara Guthrie, VP Corporate Sustainability, explained that UL, as a mission-driven company, has upheld the principles listed in the United Nations Global Compact for over 125 years. Some examples cited include UL’s Standards of Business Conduct, which emphasizes the company’s anti-bribery and corruption policy, plus a commitment to prevent slavery and human trafficking in both its corporate activities and its supply chain. The company also works diligently to prevent harmful or fraudulent products from reaching the market.

“The difference between now and then is that we’ve made a formal, external pledge to the UN to say that we will work to progress the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),” Guthrie said. “As a result, we have many UL employees proactively approaching corporate sustainability with ideas to align our business operations, services and communications with the United Nations Global Compact.”

Guthrie noted that support for the Sustainable Development Goals is steadily increasing as employees become more aware of not only the significance of the goals but the company’s strong commitment to them. “We held our first-ever global volunteer initiative this year – 125 Streams for UL’s 125 years,” Guthrie said.

UL Japan team proudly shows the trash collected from their 125 streams initiative
UL employee volunteers in Japan partnered with a local NGO to clean the shores of the Miya River. The Miya River is consistently rated as one of the cleanest in Japan, so this experience really opened their eyes to the pollution affecting even “clean” waterways.

“Through our internal communications efforts, we united employees around the SDGs while contributing to the communities where we work and live.”

Other efforts to engage UL employees include the establishment of a corporate sustainability working group. Made up of two executive sponsors plus a cross-functional and divisional council, the group has monthly meetings.

At the group’s October meeting, they developed an energy task force to look for new ways to use energy and to be more energy-efficient. Next up? A supplier/responsible sourcing task force to address UL’s own internal supply chain as well as a Field Services task force to consider innovative ways to reduce our carbon footprint while maintaining critical factory inspection responsibilities. Also under consideration is the development of an SDG alignment task force. This group will be responsible for mapping UL business to the UN’s sustainable development goals.

“In mapping, you want to find instances where your company is actively driving progress,” Guthrie said. By actively analyzing and mapping our contribution, we can determine where we are leading and where we have opportunities to do more.”

In addition to the working groups, UL will release its first sustainability report – On a Shared Mission – in 2020.  The theme reflects the company’s belief that everyone, from the corporation to employees, customers, stakeholders, and even the public, is in this together.

Guthrie noted that SDG #17 (Partnership for the Goals) embodies this idea. “We may all have individual and corporate missions to fulfill; however, we all share in common one mission higher than all of us, to steward this planet and its people to health and well-being in a way that does not endanger future generations.”

Learn more about Corporate Sustainability. Visit to discover how UL positively impacts our planet, its people and their prosperity as we work for a safer, more secure and sustainable world.