Investment policy

Public consultation on business responsibilities and investment treaties


May 2021 - Working Paper on Business Responsibilities and Investment Treaties



Investment treaty policy makers are increasingly faced with pressures to integrate policies relating to business responsibilities into investment treaties. As policy makers contemplate whether and how to respond in their particular field, they need to understand the broader framework for business responsibilities.

In October 2019, governments participating in the OECD-hosted Freedom of Investment Roundtable initiated work on business responsibilities and investment treaties. Business and human rights (BHR) and responsible business conduct (RBC) are fast-developing fields with converging approaches to business responsibilities. The convergence is demonstrated in the alignment of the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and core ILO standards. Governments, business, trade unions and civil society are all engaged in efforts in this area.

Public consultation - In January-February 2020, the OECD invited comments from business, trade unions, civil society and experts on a consultation paper that provides governments with a preliminary overview of the fields of BHR and RBC. The paper considers a range of recent government actions, including in response to growing calls for policy coherence across government, as well as a few important stakeholder initiatives. The paper also provides a brief overview of relevant investment treaty developments. Trade and investment treaties can affect business responsibilities including through:

  • their impact on policy space for governments and in particular non-discriminatory regulation of business

  • provisions that buttress domestic law or its enforcement, including in key areas such as labour, the environment, anti-corruption or human rights

  • provisions that speak directly to business by, for example, encouraging observance of RBC standards or establishing conditions for access to investment treaty benefits

The compilation of comments received will inform discussions at the OECD Conference on Business Responsibilities and Investment Treaties which is currently postponed due to Coronavirus Covid-19. This page will be updated as new information is received. 

This OECD-hosted Investment Roundtable has been evaluating investment treaty policy and investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) since 2011. Over 55 governments from all regions of the world participate in the Roundtable which is known as the Freedom of Investment (FOI) Roundtable.


List of contributors

  • Jose Daniel Amado (Lima, Peru); Jackson Shaw Kern (Washington, DC and Addis Ababa, Ethiopia); Martin Doe Rodriguez (The Hague, Netherlands)
  • Yılmaz Argüden (Chairman of Trustees, on behalf of Argüden Governance Academy) 
  • Paul Bagust (Global Property Standards Director, Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors)
  • Christian Bellak (Associate Professor, Vienna University of Economics and Business, Vienna, Austria)
  • Ruth Bergan (Senior Advisor, on behalf of Trade Justice Movement)
  • Business at OECD (BIAC)
  • Manjiao CHI (Professor and Founding Director, Center for International Economic Law and Policy (CIELP), Law School, University of International Business and Economics (UIBE), China)
  • Michela Cocchi (Founder and CEO, Lady Lawyer Foundation)
  • Confederación sindical de comisiones obreras (CCOO) (Spanish Trade Unions Organisation)
  • Jesse Coleman and Brooke Güven (on behalf of the Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment)
  • Lorenzo Cotula (Principal Researcher, Law and Sustainable Development, International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), Edinburgh, United Kingdom)
  • Gaelle Dusepulchre (Permanent representative to the EU, on behalf of International Federation for Human Rights)
  • Jan Eijsbouts (Professor, Institute for Corporate Law, Governance and Innovation Policies Faculty of Law, Maastricht University)
  • Edward Guntrip (Senior Lecturer in International Law, Sussex Law School, University of Sussex)
  • Robert Howse (Professor of International Law, New York University Law School) 
  • Thomas Kentsch (Siemens Operations, Supply Chain Management, Standards, Munich, Germany)
  • Nontihès Koné (Coordinator of the Human Rights Violations Observatory, Association for the Protection of Human Rights, Ivory Coast)
  • Yulia Levashova (Assistant Professor, Nyenrode Business University; Associate Research Fellow, Utrecht University) 
  • Peter Muchlinski (Emeritus Professor of International Commercial Law, The School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London)
  • Martins Paparinskis (Reader in Public International Law, UCL Faculty of Laws, University College London)
  • Margarita Pirovska (Head of Fiduciary Duty in the 21st Century, on behalf of Principles for Responsible Investment)
  • Nisawan Pitchdumrong (Thailand)
  • Marc Proksch (Chief, Investment and Enterprise Development Trade, Investment and Innovation Division, on behalf of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP))
  • Russia-OECD Center of the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration (RANEPA)
  • Andrea Saldarriaga and Andrea Shemberg (SILA, Business & Human Rights Advisory)
  • Raymond Saner (Director of Diplomacy Dialogue, Centre for Socio-Economic Development (CSEND), Geneva; co-chair, Academic Friends of the OECD Guidelines network) 
  • Martijn Scheltema (Partner, Pels Rijcken & Droogleever Fortuijn N.V., The Hague, The Netherlands; co-chair, Academic Friends of the OECD Guidelines network)
  • Gisèle Stephens-Chu and Amanda Neil (Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP, Paris and Vienna)
  • Matthew Stephenson (Policy and Community Lead, International Trade & Investment, on behalf of the World Economic Forum)
  • Eric Teynier, Pierre Pic and Arianna Rafiq (Teynier Pic, Paris)
  • Trade Union Advisory Committee to the OECD (TUAC)
  • Lene Wendland (Chief, Business and Human Rights, Development and Social and Economic Issues Branch, on behalf of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights)
  • Lucia van Westerlaak (Policy Advisor, on behalf of the Netherlands Trade Union Confederation)

Consultation materials

Consultation paper

Compilation of comments

Documents and links

OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises

United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights

International Labour Organisation standards

OECD Freedom of Investment Roundtable

OECD Conference on Business Responsibilities and Investment Treaties

More OECD work on international investment law


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