When Rev. Leon H. Sullivan created the original Sullivan Principles in South Africa in 1977 to define appropriate corporate behavior under apartheid, it was a controversial move. Many wanted U.S. businesses to simply pull out of South Africa and not try to make apartheid more livable. What these critics failed to take into account, however, was that business would go on, and if black workers didn't get a hand up, they would never be ready for eventual majority rule. This is what happened in far too many African nations; blacks were not prepared to take the reins of government or modern commerce in a deliberate attempt to sabotage their chance to succeed. Rev. Sullivan wanted to avoid that in South Africa, and he succeeded.
When majority rule finally came to South Africa in 1994, there were many black managers ready to assume leadership positions in South Africa's economy. Because white South Africans didn't have a complete economic choke hold, government was able to deal with business in a more secure position. South Africa's economy - so important to not only Africa but the world at large - continued to thrive. That likely would not have been the case if all foreign firms had pulled out and if blacks had not been able to move up the corporate ladder, acquiring vital skills along the way.
Twenty-two years after create his original principles, Rev. Sullivan stood beside then-UN Secretary -General Kofi Annan to announce his Global Sullivan Principles for Corporate Social Responsibility (GSP). These principles define not only corporate responsibility for fair labor practices, safe working environments and appropriate environmental practices, but also a mutually beneficial relationship between the corporation and the community in which it operates.
Hundreds of companies in America, Africa, Asia, Europe and other parts of the world have endorsed these principles and pledged to abide by them. In those countries in which such practices are observed, companies prosper, their workers advance and communities benefit. Nine African presidents are signatories to the GSP, and the Sullivan foundation is working to expand the reach of GSP throughout Africa. We believe these principles will help boost African economies and raise the living standards of its people. We also see GSP as providing the basis for successful public-private partnerships between African governments and their private sectors.
In short, GSP is a win-win for government and the private sector.