Professor John Ruggie, the UN Secretary General’s Special Representative on business and human rights, has just published a survey of the human rights practices of the Fortune Global 500 companies. Professor Ruggie’s mandate from Kofi Annan includes identification and clarification of standards of corporate accountability in the field of human rights and elaboration on the role of States in effectively regulating and adjudicating the role of transnational corporations.
The survey results include information on the Global 500 companies’ references to external instruments, including to the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. The results are encouraging for the Guidelines. Of the 102 companies that completed the questionnaire, 40.8 per cent indicate that their companies use the Guidelines as a reference. Results for the other major instruments included in the survey are: ILO Declarations or Conventions (71 per cent), the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (61.8 per cent) and the UN Global Compact (56.6 per cent). Other instruments were referenced by 34.2 per cent of the companies, with the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights (10 per cent) and the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (4 per cent) being the two most-referenced instruments in this category. Professor Ruggie’s findings suggest that the Guidelines are an important external reference for business, even though the Guidelines’ implementation procedures do not involve explicit endorsement by companies.
The OECD Legal Directorate and the UN Special Representative also exchanged letters in order to ensure that the legal status of OECD Guidelines is adequately described in the Professor’s report. In its letter, the OECD Legal Directorate notes that the Guidelines implementation procedures were adopted by OECD Council Decision and that this Decision involves a legally binding commitment to the procedures and expression of strong political commitment. [OECD Legal Directorate letter, Professor Ruggie’s response].