Chinese search engine Baidu has officially announced that it has committed to be a member of the United Nations Global Compact to boost its daily management on corporate social responsibility.
Liu Meng, the China-based UN Global Compact network manager, told local media that Baidu is one the first Chinese Internet companies to join the Global Compact. Now the Global Compact has more than 180 members in China, including Sinopec, Petrol China, China Mobile and Haier. The participation of Baidu will work as a model to drive more Internet companies to bring CSR system construction into their strategic planning and to promote the sustainable development of the industry. The UN Global Compact is a strategic policy initiative for businesses that are committed to aligning their operations and strategies with ten universally accepted principles in the areas of human rights, labor, environment and anti-corruption.
By joining the Global Compact, Baidu.com is committing to the ten principles in the areas of human rights, labor, the environment and anti-corruption laid out by the initiative. In the past, Internet search engines like Google and Baidu have come under international pressure for amending and obfuscating their search engine results within China, which some people overseas believe is immoral and unethical. In particular, Baidu has come under attack in the past 18 months for allowing illegal music downloads via its search engine links. Though the Global Compact does not address intellectual property rights or freedom of information directly, how Baidu's business processes will change now that its has committed to such other lofty universal ideals as "respect [for] the protection of internationally proclaimed human rights" is mostly unclear.
The only clue comes from Robin Li, CEO of Baidu, and what he stated in his commitment letter to join the organization: "We are committed to making the Global Compact and its principles part of the strategy, culture and day-to-day operations of our company, and to engaging in collaborative projects which advance the broader development goals of the United Nations, particularly the Millennium Development Goals. Baidu will make a clear statement of this commitment to our stakeholders and the general public."
Getting into the Global Compact does not automatically afford Baidu an unconditional lifetime membership. Indeed it is quite possible for the company to be dumped from the initiative, as in July 2008 the United Nations Global Compact Office announced that 630 companies, including 22 Chinese companies, have so far been removed from its list of participants for failure to communicate progress.
Those delisted Chinese companies are Anhui Animal By-Products Import and Export Corp.; Anhui Animal By-Products Import and Export Corp.; Beijing Leading-Edge Investment Co., Ltd.; China Aviation Supplies Imp.& Exp. Group Corp.; China First Tractor Corp.; China President Group; China US Net Group Inc.; China Yituo Group Constructional Machinery Co.; E&C Solutions (Shanghai), Inc; Fujian Electronics and Information Group Co., Ltd.; H. Cheong-Leen & Company; Highway and Bridge Construction Company of Anhui Province; Highway Surveying & Design Institute of Anhui Province; Huatai Group; Jilin City HuaTa Science-Technology Industry Trading Co Ltd; Jilin Tongtian Automobile Co., Ltd.; Rich Management Group; Shandong Lubei Chemical Industry Co. Ltd.; Sparkice Inc; Suntek Group Guangdong Credit & Risk Management Co., Ltd.; Wanda Group Share Co., Ltd.; and Yituo (Loyang) Mechanical Engineering Company.
The delisting of companies is part of ongoing efforts by the UNGC Office to enhance the accountability and credibility of the initiative, so Baidu must now stay vigilant in its dealings with all of its stakeholders to ensure conformity and compliance with the Global Compact guidelines.