On May 25th, a new update to the Multinational Guidelines was adopted by Ministers, including Secretary of State Clinton, during the OECD’s 50th Anniversary Commemoration. For over 35 years, the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises have played an important role as guidelines on corporate social responsibility that have been formally endorsed by governments, and are the only guidelines that employ a network of national contact points to promote and implement their recommendations in cooperation with business, trade unions, and nongovernmental organizations. The Guidelines are also exceptional in that the periodic updates provide useful guidance to businesses as they respond to the challenges of acting responsibly in a rapidly changing global landscape. The Guidelines are not limited to OECD members, but are open to all like-minded countries and presently have 42 adherents, including some emerging economies.
The current update is particularly notable for its incorporation of a new human rights chapter, drawing on the Guiding Principles for business and human rights developed by the UN Special Representative for Human Rights and Business, John Ruggie, and the incorporation of guidance on exercising due diligence in the context of supply chain relationships. This update is also notable for its improved guidance to national contact points in relation to assisting companies and stakeholders address questions that arise regarding implementation of the recommendations in specific circumstances, as well as the incorporation of a proactive agenda for collaboration with businesses and other stakeholders in addressing emerging challenges that may be faced by companies in similar circumstances.
The newly-created OECD Recommendation on the Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals from Conflict Affected and High Risk Areas is a clear example of the importance the OECD places on proactive risk management. Another important result of the update that highlights the value of a proactive agenda is the new recommendation to enterprises to cooperate in promoting Internet Freedom through respect for the rights of freedom of expression, association, and assembly online.
The update is a major step forward in the collaborative efforts of business, labor, governments, and other key stakeholders to foster the positive contribution that business can make in realizing social objectives together with their contribution to job creation, economic growth and the production of value for their shareholders.