- The original Sullivan principles were developed in 1977 to apply economic pressure on South Africa in protest of its system of apartheid. The principles eventually gained wide adoption among United States–based corporations.
- For more, see #The Sullivan principles below.
- The new global Sullivan principles were jointly unveiled in 1999 by Rev. Sullivan and United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan. The new and expanded corporate code of conduct, as opposed to the originals' specific focus on South African apartheid, were designed to increase the active participation of corporations in the advancement of human rights and social justice at the international level.
The Sullivan principles
|International opposition to
apartheid in South Africa
In 1977, Rev. Leon Sullivan, an African-American minister, was a member of the board of General Motors. At the time, General Motors was one of the largest corporations in the United States. General Motors also happened to be the largest employer of blacks in South Africa, a country which was pursuing a harsh program of state-sanctioned racial segregation and discrimination targeted primarily at the country's black population.
Sullivan, looking back on his anti-Apartheid efforts, recalled:
“Starting with the work place, I tightened the screws step by step and raised the bar step by step. Eventually I got to the point where I said that companies must practice corporate civil disobedience against the laws and I threatened South Africa and said in two years Mandela must be freed, apartheid must end, and blacks must vote or else I'll bring every American company I can out of South Africa.”
The original principles
The Sullivan principles, introduced in 1977 with one addition in 1984, consisted of seven requirements a corporation was to demand for its employees as a condition for doing business. In general, the principles demanded the equal treatment of employees regardless of their race both within and outside of the workplace, demands which directly conflicted with the official South African policies of racial segregation and unequal rights.
The principles read:
The Sullivan principles were celebrated when introduced and gained wide use in the United States, particularly during the disinvestment campaign of the 1980s. Before the end of South Africa's apartheid era, the principles were formally adopted by more than 125 US corporations that had operations in South Africa. Of those companies that formally adopted the principles, at least 100 completely withdrew their existing operations from South Africa.
However, as South Africa's system of apartheid persisted relatively unchanged from the 1970s into the late 1980s, Sullivan "abandoned [his principles] as not going far enough" complaining that the principles by themselves were not enough to pressure a South African government steadfast in its refusal to yield to change.
The global Sullivan principles
In 1999, more than 20 years after the adoption of the original Sullivan Principles and six years after the end of apartheid, the Rev. Leon Sullivan and United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan together unveiled the new "Global Sullivan Principles".
The overarching objective of these principles, according to Leon Sullivan, is “to support economic, social and political justice by companies where they do business,” including respect for human rights and equal work opportunities for all peoples.
The new principles
The new principles read:
- Disinvestment from South Africa
- Corporate social responsibility
- Leon Sullivan
- Socially responsible investing
- Rev. Leon Sullivan. The Sullivan Principles Archived 7 January 2010 at the Wayback Machine., The Rev. Leon Sullivan Website. Accessed 5 June 2007
- The Global Sullivan Principles of Social Responsibility Archived 21 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine. Sullivan. 2010. Last accessed 15 November 2011.
- Leon Sullivan Dies at 78. Christianity Today. 1 April 2001.
- Global Sullivan Principle Endorsers Archived 5 January 2006 at the Wayback Machine.