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Federal Register Notice

We welcome your input on the update of the National Action Plan (NAP) on Responsible Business Conduct.  Please see the Federal Register Notice  which provides background and welcomes written comments concerning this initiative for U.S. Government agencies to take into account in developing the updated NAP.  Comments may concern issues addressed in the prior (2016) NAP or other issues suggested as priorities.  Please submit comments by May 31, 2022.

Overview

On June 16, 2021, Secretary Blinken announced on behalf of the Biden-Harris Administration that we will soon begin updating and revitalizing the United States’ National Action Plan on Responsible Business Conduct (RBC).  The Administration recognizes the need for a whole-of-government process to focus, improve, and expand its efforts to promote RBC.

RBC is a broad concept based on the idea that businesses can perform well while doing good, and that governments should create and facilitate the conditions for it to take place.  The principles underlying this concept are encompassed in the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises   and the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights  . They place importance on three aspects of the business-society relationship:

  1. Emphasizing and accentuating the positive contributions businesses can make to economic, environmental, social progress.
  2. Committing to robust due diligence efforts, including identifying and mitigating adverse impacts of business conduct, and remedying abuses where they occur.
  3. Ensuring businesses are aware of and complying with legal obligations within their supply chains both at home and overseas.

The effort will bring together the U.S. private sector, civil society groups, and workers’ organizations to promote RBC by U.S. businesses operating and investing abroad.  The last National Action Plan — the U.S. government’s first — was published on December 16, 2016.

We are updating the National Action Plan in light of the U.S. government’s commitment to promoting fair play, the rule of law, and high standards for global commerce in line with democratic values, which we cannot separate from our interests.  This includes supporting a foreign policy for the middle class by ensuring workers’ rights and a level playing field for the American worker; protecting the environment; combating the climate crisis; promoting rights-respecting technology deployment; and helping U.S. businesses to be global leaders in promoting respect for human rights and responsible conduct in the communities where they operate.

The revitalized National Action Plan will build upon the previous framework.  We will increase our commitment to coordinate and advance policies that promote responsible business conduct, and work with all stakeholders to reach our joint goals.

Please continue to check back for updates to this website.

Stakeholder Engagement

Please continue to check back for information on stakeholder engagement sessions and other updates.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q:  Why is the USG revitalizing its National Action Plan (NAP) and what do you hope to accomplish with the NAP?

A:  The Biden-Harris Administration made the commitment to revitalize the 2016 National Action Plan (NAP) to set higher goals for how the U.S. government will encourage businesses to achieve high standards of responsible business conduct (RBC) – and champion U.S. businesses that demonstrate best practices.  It will also highlight what the U.S. government is doing, including with business, civil society, and governments, to foster an enabling environment for responsible business conduct.

We frequently hear from stakeholders that U.S. businesses represent something more than profit-making enterprises.  U.S. businesses are innovative, seek to create local jobs, engage with and invest in local communities for the long-term, and are committed to building employees’ skills.  We also recognize that all businesses, including U.S. businesses, can continue to strengthen their responsible business conduct policies and practices when doing business both at home and overseas.

The process of revitalizing the U.S. NAP provides the opportunity to deepen the conversation about responsible business conduct by highlighting best practices; enable stakeholders to make recommendations to the U.S. government on how to incentivize these practices; and develop collaborative approaches to emerging and critical issues in the RBC space.  Advancing RBC increases U.S. business’ ability to serve as reliable, sustainable, and accountable actors overseas, and at home. Businesses that operate responsibly exemplify our country’s commitments to human rights, responsible investment, and sustainable and inclusive growth.  RBC is a broad concept based on the growing evidence that businesses can perform well while doing good, and that governments should create and facilitate the conditions for this to take place.

Responsible business conduct is about more than just agreeing to abide by a set of principles or guidelines.  It is about integrating responsible investment and business practices into corporate management policies and decision-making processes, consistent with U.S. and local laws and international standards, in a manner that promotes the rule of law and respects the rights of all stakeholders within a company’s workforce and value chain.  It is about strengthening transparent and accountable business practices, including through conducting effective human rights and environmental due diligence, mitigating human rights and labor abuses through monitoring and verifying value chains, and identifying and addressing areas for improvement through the help of stakeholders.

We recognize that this is not always easy; it can be tough work, especially when businesses are engaging in post-conflict and other fragile environments.  The U.S. and other governments can play a role in promoting a business environment conducive to responsible practices.  In putting together the NAP, we will strive to do our part together with businesses, workers’ organizations, civil society, and others to help us get this right.

Q:  What factors motivated the Administration to commit to updating and revitalizing the NAP?

A:  The Biden-Harris Administration is committed to Build Back Better and to a foreign policy for the middle class that will turn around the economic crisis and build a more stable, inclusive global economy.  As part of this, the Administration is committed to working with governments to raise global standards for RBC, including on labor rights, human rights, anti-corruption, the environment, and sustainability, and is committed to leading a race to the top.  We engage with others on a host of issues related to U.S. business conduct abroad, including combating corruption, promoting transparent practices, promoting responsible and sustainable supply chains, combating the climate crisis, addressing conflict minerals, combating human trafficking, supporting labor rights and worker safety, and responsible use of technology.  We collaborate on these issues with governments, businesses, civil society, workers’ groups and international organizations including the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the International Labor Organization (ILO), and the United Nations Human Rights Council.

In the course of these engagements, we have recognized the need for a revitalized framework on RBC that aligns with the Administration’s support for leveling the playing field for the American worker, advancing democratic values, and raising global standards for RBC.  We understand the importance of leading by example and implementing this philosophy by continuing to review and improve its own efforts and by learning from others.  The NAP is an opportunity for the U.S. government to explain what we expect of ourselves and reflect how U.S. businesses inform our work on global guidance with other governments, international organizations, and various stakeholder groups.

Q:  What will the NAP address?

A:  The NAP will address ways in which the U.S. government can promote and encourage established norms of responsible business conduct with respect to, but not limited to, human rights, including labor rights, anti-corruption, transparency, sustainability, protecting the environment, and combating the climate crisis, as well as the nexus of technology and human rights.  In doing so, the NAP will:

  • help provide clear and consistent expectations for U.S. businesses in their global operations;
  • facilitate internal U.S. government communication and coordination;
  • strengthen communication among stakeholders;
  • identify U.S. government commitments and steps to assist in creating a rights-respecting, enabling environment for businesses operating abroad; and
  • further promote responsible business conduct.

The NAP will address what the U.S. government is doing in this space; highlight best practices, relevant initiatives, and experiences; and identify U.S. government commitments and actions going forward.

Q: Who will lead this process within the U.S. government?

A:  The State Department’s Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs and Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor are leading the NAP process in close coordination with the National Security Council and the U.S. government interagency.

Q:  What topics will be included in the plan? What is on and off the table?

A:  As a first step in this process, the Administration is taking stock of our existing work and soliciting input on ways in which that work can be improved and expanded.  As we work through revitalizing the NAP, we will need to make decisions about our priorities and the scope of our efforts.  We will solicit and consider feedback from stakeholders including the private sector as well as labor unions, civil society organizations, academic experts, international organizations, and affected communities.

Q:  What is the geographic scope of this exercise?

A:  We expect U.S. businesses to uphold high standards, regardless of where they are operating.  The guidance set out in the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises and the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, two guiding documents to the NAP, have both domestic and international applicability.

At the same time, we want to ensure that the time and resources dedicated to this NAP are invested strategically.  That means considering challenges not addressed through other processes and focusing on the most serious risks.  Many, though certainly not all, of the most acute risks related to business conduct are more prevalent outside of our borders, especially where governments are unable or unwilling to provide the resources necessary to ensure basic standards of security, rule of law, and governance.

We do not plan to impose rigid, categorical limits on the scope of this process.  Many of the challenges that business face can only be addressed through concerted and coordinated action from the board room to the factory floor.  Similarly, many of the policy levers and processes that can impact business conduct abroad are domestic in nature – for instance our procurement regulations to address trafficking in persons are implemented through domestic regulatory processes and are, we hope, having impacts on business conduct abroad and at home.  In short, many of actions we commit to, and that we will encourage businesses to commit to, through this process are likely to influence business conduct regardless of where it takes place.

Q:  How will this NAP build on the 2016 NAP?

A: Much has changed since the release of the 2016 NAP.  We have taken stock of new initiatives in the annual fact sheets issued by the Department of State on U.S. government efforts to advance business and human rights in 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020.  We will take these fact sheets into account, as well as stakeholder input and additional factors, in revitalizing our NAP.

Q:  Will there be a National Baseline Assessment (NBA)?

A:  We are considering options for including an NBA as part of our NAP process.  We recognize the value of an NBA or similar assessment in demonstrating a commitment to continual improvement and measuring effectiveness of current RBC policies.

Q:  Which government agencies will be involved in this process?

A:  This process will take a whole-of-government approach involving many U.S. agencies.  We are still early in the process, and will provide further updates on the agencies involved.

Q:  The U.S. NAP is on “responsible business conduct.”  How will that differ from other NAPs that are focused on corporate social responsibility or business and human rights?

A:  RBC is a broad concept based on the growing evidence that businesses can perform well while doing good, and that governments should create and facilitate the conditions for this to take place.  The principles underlying this concept are encompassed in the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises and the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.  They place importance on three aspects of the business-society relationship: (1) emphasizing and accentuating the positive contributions businesses can make to economic, environmental, social progress; (2) committing to robust due diligence efforts, including identifying and mitigating adverse impacts of business conduct, and remedying abuses where they occur; (3) ensuring businesses are aware of and complying with legal obligations within their supply chains both at home and overseas.

Q:  Do you intend for this NAP to include legislative recommendations, and if so how will you engage Congress?

A:  We intend to consult with interested Members and staff.  It is possible that in the process of reviewing how we can improve our efforts to promote responsible business conduct, we may identify issues that are best addressed through legislation.

Q:  How do you intend to address remedy issues?

A:  We will look at existing mechanisms, both legal and non-legal procedures, including those managed through governmental, corporate, and multistakeholder processes that are designed to provide oversight and address situations where companies are alleged to have engaged in irresponsible conduct.  We will assess  how our tools might be replicated, expanded upon, or strengthened.  We will also be open to new and creative suggestions that are likely to prove effective, workable, and agreeable to relevant stakeholders.  As with all aspects of this exercise, we appreciate recommendations on this topic.

Q:  How do you intend to consult with stakeholders?

A:  We will seek input and recommendations on the NAP from a wide range of stakeholders, including colleagues across the U.S. government; business associations and individual companies – both large and small; labor unions; civil society organizations; academic experts; international organizations; and affected communities.  We will establish a series of open dialogues, through which we hope to engage with and hear from interested stakeholders about this process.

We understand that one of the most important stakeholder groups in this process is also the hardest to reach – that is, the most vulnerable individuals and communities who may be impacted by the conduct of U.S. companies abroad.  In order to engage with advocates for these populations, we will also look to set up webinars, as well as consider video conferences through certain embassies or consulates.

Q:  If I can’t participate in stakeholder engagement sessions, how can I engage?

A:  We have provided an email address to receive written submissions on a rolling basis at RBCNAP@state.gov and will soon be issuing a Federal Register Notice to seek input from the public.  We seek your input and concrete recommendations on where we go from here — what should be included in the NAP, what shouldn’t be, and specific suggestions of what the U.S. government should commit to or take action on in the plan.

Q:  Will you engage with foreign governments during this process and if so how?

A:  We have had conversations with several foreign governments on the NAP process, in order to compare practices and learn lessons from one another.  We will seek to continue and expand these bilateral discussions throughout this process, in addition to continuing to work with others through existing, related multilateral forums and processes.

Q:  What happens once you publish the NAP?

A:  Our work on the NAP is just beginning, and we are excited about the road ahead.  We do not view the creation and publishing of a NAP as an end unto itself, but rather part of our ongoing efforts to clarify and address these important issues.  As with other U.S. government national action plans, we will treat this as an iterative and evolving process.

Contact Us

Contact us at RBCNAP@state.gov.

Additional Information

U.S. Department of State

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