Guidelines for multinational enterprises

New OECD guidelines to protect human rights and social development


25/05/2011 - Ministers from OECD and developing economies will today agree new guidelines to promote more responsible business conduct by multinational enterprises, and a second set of guidance to limit the use of conflict minerals.

Forty-two countries will commit to new, tougher standards of corporate behaviour in the updated Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises: the 34 OECD countries plus Argentina, Brazil, Egypt, Latvia, Lithuania, Morocco, Peru and Romania. The updated Guidelines include new recommendations on human rights abuse and company responsibility for their supply chains, making them the first inter-governmental agreement in this area.

The Guidelines establish that firms should respect human rights in every country in which they operate. Companies should also respect environmental and labour standards, for example, and have appropriate due diligence processes in place to ensure this happens. These include issues such as paying decent wages, combating bribe solicitation and extortion, and the promotion of sustainable consumption.

The Guidelines are a comprehensive, non-binding code of conduct that OECD member countries and others have agreed to promote among the business sector. A new, tougher process for complaints and mediation has also been put in place.

“The business community shares responsibility for restoring growth and trust in markets,” said OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría. “These guidelines will help the private sector grow their businesses responsibly by promoting human rights and boosting social development around the world.” 

Ministers from adhering countries will also agree to a Recommendation designed to combat the illicit trade in minerals that finance armed conflict.

Illegal exploitation of natural resources in fragile African states has been fueling conflict across the region for decades. While data is scarce, it is estimated that up to 80% of minerals in some of the worst-affected zones may be smuggled out. The illegal trade stokes conflict, boosts crime and corruption, finances international terrorism and blocks economic and social development.

The Recommendation clarifies how companies can identify and better manage risks throughout the supply chain, from local exporters and mineral processors to the manufacturing and brand-name companies that use these minerals in their products.

The OECD and emerging economies worked closely with business, trade unions and non-governmental organisations to produce both sets of guidelines.

For further information or comment on conflict minerals, journalists should contact Lahra Liberti of the OECD’s Investment Division (tel. + 33 1 45 24 79 47).

For further information or comment on the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, journalists should contact Kathryn Gordon of the OECD’s Investment Division (tel. + 33 1 45 24 98 42).

Read the remarks by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton here 



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