OECD Alignment Assessments
OECD Alignment Assessments evaluate the alignment of an industry, government or multi-stakeholder initiative with the recommendations of OECD due diligence guidance, using the OECD’s alignment assessment tools and methodology.
An initiative’s standards, implementation and overall credibility are assessed against detailed criteria of due diligence using an assessment tool. Each criterion is linked to discrete recommendations from specific OECD due diligence guidance. Initiatives are evaluated as being fully, partially or not aligned against each due diligence criterion, contributing towards an overarching alignment score.
The OECD alignment assessments constitute three ‘core’ parts:
OECD alignment assessments are based on:
Alignment assessments focus on the adequacy of the initiative’s standards and monitoring, oversight and implementation activities. They do not draw conclusions about the adequacy of the due diligence carried out by individual companies that participate in the initiative under assessment.
OECD due diligence guidance
OECD due diligence guidance recommendations are the negotiated and government-backed global benchmark for responsible business conduct (RBC) due diligence. The OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Business Conduct, which was launched in 2018, is adopted by 49 governments and promotes a common global understanding of RBC due diligence.
It details the specific steps of the due diligence process that have been agreed upon by policy makers, business – including investors - trade unions and civil society. This due diligence guidance builds on existing sector-specific guidances that have been negotiated and adopted by governments in the minerals, extractives, agriculture, financial and garment and footwear sectors.
Alignment assessment process
Alignment Assessments follow a process that starts with a detailed scoping of the initiative and its activities. Desktop reviews, interviews and shadow assessments (essentially following assessors or auditors of the initiatives during their work) then form the basis of data collection and analysis. Based on its review, the OECD develops a findings report, which is shared with the initiative and an informal advisory group prior to publication.
Why align with international standards?
Due diligence is increasingly on the policy agenda. All international instruments on responsible business conduct – including the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, and the ILO Tripartite Declaration of Principles Concerning Multinational Enterprises and Social Policy – recommend due diligence as the framework for companies to address adverse impacts in their operations and global supply chains.
The growing number of regulatory as well as voluntary due diligence initiatives across sectors and geographies underscores the need for convergence around shared expectations for companies and supply chain actors. Regulatory frameworks which include complementary requirements that are aligned with international standards, alignment assessments of initiatives which help to scale up common approaches and best practices, and clear metrics for effectiveness can all contribute to legal certainty, lower costs and contribute to a level playing field for responsible business conduct.
Well-designed, transparent and credible industry programmes, government and multi-stakeholder initiatives (“sustainability initiatives”) can play an important role in supporting companies’ due diligence at different points in the process. However, the landscape of initiatives across sectors and geographies is both vast and diverse in terms of their composition, focus and core activities.
Many initiatives also now play a role in evaluating and benchmarking the due diligence activities of individual companies and their business partners. This diversity can be a strength as initiatives focus their resources and expertise. But a lack of harmonisation across initiatives has resulted in multiple and at times conflicting requirements on companies, as well as confusion about what initiatives do and what role they should and should not play in due diligence. While initiatives can be a multiplier for good quality due diligence, they can also lead to over-reliance by companies if they are not well designed and used appropriately by companies. Companies have ultimate responsibility for their own due diligence and are expected to play an important role in each step.
Industry, government or multi-stakeholder initiatives can help companies to:
How companies can use initiatives appropriately?
Companies may carry out RBC due diligence in accordance with OECD standards without using or participating in initiatives. Where they do opt to use or participate in an initiative—however well designed or credible—companies should not outsource their own responsibilities by over-relying on the initiative. Instead, companies should have robust, risk-based systems in place to:
Companies are therefore expected to carry out risk-based checks of the reliability and quality of information that they receive from third parties, and also layer on their own due diligence in accordance with the OECD’s due diligence framework. This can involve, for example, establishing systems to identify red flags associated with the initiative or its members, or layering on other supplier assessment or risk monitoring and mapping tools, such as stakeholder engagement.
Third-party assessments of initiatives
Third parties may use the OECD’s alignment assessment methodology and assessment tools to evaluate initiatives against OECD due diligence guidance and credibility criteria. Where independent assessments are undertaken, however, the OECD strongly encourages initiatives to publish:
While the OECD encourages maximum transparency in all alignment assessments, including those undertaken and overseen by the OECD, transparency is particularly important for independent assessments to increase confidence and trust in the assessment process and findings. Note that the use of the OECD’s assessment Tool(s) and completion of an alignment assessment, whether by the OECD or an independent third party, does not imply any endorsement by or affiliation with the OECD. See Terms and Conditions below.
Terms and conditions for using OECD Alignment Assessment Tools and undergoing OECD Alignment Assessments
Use of the Alignment Assessment Tool(s) and/or completion of an OECD alignment assessment by the OECD does not imply any endorsement by or affiliation with the OECD. Initiatives using the Alignment Assessment Tool(s) shall not, and shall use all reasonable endeavours to ensure that their employees, contractors, and affiliates, including participating, assessed or member enterprises (together, ‘Associated Entities’), do not: (1) make false, misleading or inaccurate claims or representations about the results of an assessment or their relationship with the OECD, either in public or private; and (2) claim any affiliation with, or endorsement by, the OECD, either in public or private.
If the initiative or any Associated Entity wishes to use the OECD name, acronym, logo or other identifying symbols in promotional material, both public and private, it must obtain our written agreement on how it will be used. It shall send its request to RBC@oecd.org. If permission is granted, it is only granted for the specific usage referred to in OECD’s reply. Each new use requires a new request. If requested by the OECD, the initiative shall, and shall use all reasonable endeavours to ensure that all Associated Entities shall, immediately cease the use of the OECD’s name, acronym, logo or other identifying symbols. The OECD shall not be required to provide justification for such a request. The OECD reserves the right to take any action it deems necessary against initiatives or Associated Entities that breach these terms. In particular, non-compliance may result in the exclusion of the initiative or Associated Entity from future OECD projects and/or it being barred from using any future tools developed by the OECD. At the OECD’s discretion, it may also be excluded from OECD-hosted multi-stakeholder platforms and/or be denied a platform at OECD-hosted public events.