OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises on Responsible Business Conduct

The OECD Guidelines are the oldest comprehensive code of conduct (1976) that provides businesses with a framework for responsible business conduct (corporate social responsibility). They consist of recommendations from the governments of the 38 OECD members and other states (Argentina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Costa Rica, Croatia, Egypt, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Morocco, Peru, Romania, Tunisia and Ukraine) to companies operating from their sovereign territory.  The Guidelines are applicable to multinationals from the signatory states wherever they are operating. They cover all key areas of business responsibility, including human rights, labour rights, environment, bribery, consumer interests, as well as information disclosure, science and technology, competition, and taxation.

The Guidelines are an important tool in shaping globalisation. Their stated aim was to guarantee the harmonisation of multinationals' activities with public policies, strengthen the basis of trust between companies and their host country, improve the climate for foreign investments and boost the contribution of multinational enterprises to sustainable development. The recommendations are not of a binding nature for companies. Signatory states, however, have to set up a National Contact Point. It promotes the implementation of the Guidelines and may offer an informal arbitration proceeding in case of alleged non-compliance with the Guidelines.

The Guidelines are an integral part of the OECD Declaration on International Investments and Multinational Enterprises. They are a package of measures designed to promote direct investments between OECD states. The OECD Investment Committee monitors the Guidelines and organises a regular exchange of views.

Update of the OECD Guidelines

In 2022/2023, the OECD Guidelines have been updated in a number of specific areas to ensure alignment with other instruments adopted since the last revision in 2011 (e.g. UN 2030 Agenda, OECD Due Diligence Guidance) (SECO press release). Switzerland was in favour of providing updated recommendations for responsible business conduct across key areas, such as climate change, biodiversity, technology, business integrity and supply chain due diligence.  

To ensure uniform implementation by the National Contact Points (NCP), additional guidance was provided on these offices’ accessibility, transparency and accountability. In addition, certain rules of procedure for the handling of submissions by the NCP were regulated in more detail.  

The OECD institutional stakeholders representing the interests of business, trade unions and NGOs were closely involved in the update. The process also included two public consultations open to interested stakeholders from all countries.

Last modification 23.05.2024

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