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After the Global Compact launch by Kofi Annan, the UN Secretary General, the civic organization Cittadinanzattiva, already committed to corporate citizenship themes was invited by the Global Compact Office to serve as the national platform of the Global Compact in Italy in 2001.

In 2002, the Global Compact Network Italy was created thanks to the coordination of Cittadinanzattiva and the support of the Global Compact Office, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the International Labour Organization (ILO). This initiative was supported by different institutions, academics and companies, such as: the Chamber of Commerce of Milan, the CISL, FONDACA – Active citizenship foundation, the Eni Enrico Mattei Foundation, the Frascati Group for corporate social responsibility and its companies, the IEFE – Bocconi University, the Region of Tuscany, the Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna of Pisa, the UNDP Italian Office, the United Nations Staff College - UNSSC and the Municipality of Turin.

Since 2003 the Global Compact Network Italy has been managed by the ILO in relation to the broad project: " Sustainable Development through the Global Compact", financed by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs - Italian Development Cooperation. This project was established to promote corporate citizenship as a means for development cooperation in countries such as Albania, Morocco and Tunisia. The project was not developed only to promote the Global Compact in Italy, but also to spread it as a vehicle of corporate citizenship together with other international instruments: the OCSE Guidelines and the Tripartite ILO Declaration.

In 2006 there was the necessity to give back a central role in the support of the initiative in Italy to the Global Compact Network Italy. The Steering Committee, gathered at the ILO Headquarters in Rome on the 14th September 2006, decided to entrust the GCNI Secretariat to FONDACA – Active citizenship foundation. 

On the 27th October 2010, the General Assembly of the GCNI, which met in Milan, approved a new governance model, thus signaling a great step forward in the consolidation of the initiative in Italy.

On June 10th 2013, the Global Compact Network Italy (GCNI), active since 2002, became legally established as the Global Compact Network Italy Foundation. Taking up the mission of the Network, it aims to spread the knowledge of the UNGC, favouring the increase of subscribers throughout the country and, with increasing seriousness and credibility, also aims to promote the commitment to corporate sustainability among the businesses and organizations of Italian members and their partners. Moreover, the Foundation intends to support the creation of "a more inclusive and sustainable economy" at global level, playing an active role also at regional and international levels in terms of the development of the issues of interest and promotion of the UNGC Ten Principles and sustainability good practices. Eighteen organizations took part in the Foundation's establishment, private enterprises (of different productive sectors and dimensions), universities and research centres, non-profit foundations and civil society organizations.

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