The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) released the updated version of the – now newly titled – Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises on Responsible Business Conduct. The final version incorporates many positive changes that were proposed by the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and other civil society organisations, and which significantly strengthen the existing standards for corporate accountability.
26 June 2023. In February, FIDH made a submission on the proposed update of the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises (MNEs), which was finally published on 8 June. The Guidelines are recommendations addressed by OECD governments to multinational enterprises to address adverse impacts associated with business activities on people, planet, and society, but also to ensure business activities contribute to sustainable development.
FIDH advocated for stronger provisions on a vast number of issues. Our proposed changes concerned, among others, the environment, climate change, human rights defenders, Indigenous peoples’ rights, land rights, gender, intersectionality, as well as technology and digitalisation. Many of the updates advocated for by FIDH and many other civil society organisations, including OECD Watch which offered its know-how and expertise throughout the process, have been taken on board.
FIDH welcomes the public consultation carried out on the proposed update to the Guidelines, as well as the direct consultation carried out with Indigenous peoples. While more language could have been included on specific Indigenous peoples’ rights, the new reference to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is positive. The Guidelines have seen progress in addressing reprisals against human rights defenders – although human rights defenders could have been explicitly mentioned in this context. Moreover, FIDH welcomes that the Guidelines now call on companies to consider intersecting risks faced by marginalised groups and individuals.
Among the most noteworthy changes are also the updates of the Environment and Science, Technology and Innovation chapters. The Guidelines now provide a non-exhaustive list of possible environmental impacts to be taken into account by enterprises in their risk-based due diligence. They further call on enterprises to carry out risk-based due diligence in the context of science, technology and innovation.
FIDH believes that a notable shortcoming is that the update does not include an encouragement for the National Contact Points (NCPs) to issue determinations on whether enterprises had observed the Guidelines. Such a change could have ensured that the procedures before NCPs lead to stronger outcomes. However, we welcome the call on NCPs to address reprisals against a party to a specific instance.
As can be seen, there remain gaps to be closed but the progress is palpable. FIDH strongly appreciates the inclusivity of the OECD’s update process.