Businesses face a range of different expectations for responsible practice from investors, consumers, employees, civil society organizations, the general public, and governments. To provide a coherent and comprehensive approach to responsible business conduct, the 36 member governments of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and 11 non-member governments endorsed the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises.
In 1976, the OECD established its Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises (“the Guidelines”), a comprehensive set of recommendations by governments to multinational enterprises (MNEs) to voluntarily adopt to minimize and resolve impacts which may arise from their operations in foreign jurisdictions and to encourage positive contributions to economic, social and environmental progress. The Guidelines cover issues such as human rights, environment, labor, anti-bribery, corporate governance, disclosure, supply chain management, and taxation. They have received broad support internationally, and are the only multilaterally agreed and comprehensive code of responsible business conduct that governments have committed to promoting. The Guidelines are not intended to override local law or expose MNEs to conflicting expectations. MNE compliance with the laws of the country in which they operate is a fundamental principle of the Guidelines.
The Guidelines are supported by a unique implementation mechanism of National Contact Points (NCPs), agencies established by adhering governments to promote and implement the Guidelines. The NCPs assist enterprises and their stakeholders to take appropriate measures to further the implementation of the Guidelines. They also provide a mediation and conciliation platform for resolving practical issues that may arise.
The U.S. National Contact Point (USNCP) for Responsible Business Conduct is a dispute resolution and mediation resource that can assist companies and stakeholders when responsible business conduct issues arise in a company’s operations. The USNCP’s three roles include: Promote awareness and encourage implementation of the Guidelines to business, labor, NGOs and other members of civil society, the general public, and the international community; facilitate practical application of the Guidelines by bringing business and civil society together to identify potential and emerging RBC-related risks and discuss appropriate actions and responses under the Guidelines; and offer a “Specific Instance” mediation process to be used when a party raises allegations against an MNE’s operations, focusing on finding a resolution between the parties through mediated dialogue. The USNCP is housed in the Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs of the U.S. Department of State.
The Guidelines recommend that companies use due diligence to identify, prevent and mitigate actual and potential adverse impacts as well as account for how these impacts are addressed. Due diligence is a flexible, risk-based process and not a specific formula for companies to follow. The Guidelines acknowledge that due diligence can be included within broader enterprise risk management systems, provided that it goes beyond simply identifying and managing material risks to the enterprise itself to include the risks of adverse impacts related to matters covered by the Guidelines. For more information, please visit Due Diligence and Sector-Specific Implementation Guidance.
The OECD Guidelines’ grievance mechanism is known as the “Specific Instance” process. A Specific Instance raises a complaint about conduct by an enterprise that is alleged to be inconsistent with the recommendations contained in the Guidelines. The USNCP generally acts on Specific Instances that make allegations related to issues arising in the United States or regarding the activities of U.S. headquartered companies operating in countries which have not established an NCP. For more information on submitting a Specific Instance, please visit here.
The U.S. National Contact Point undertook a Peer Review September 28-29, 2017, to assess how the NCP process is working in practice and how it is helping to promote responsible business conduct within the United States. For more information, please visit our Peer Review and U.S. NCP Recent Experiences.
U.S. National Contact Point for the OECD Guidelines
Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs
U.S. Department of State
2201 C St. NW
Rm 4480, Harry S Truman Building
Washington, DC 20520