The OECD Guidelines
The OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises have set out recommendations in order to encourage companies to adopt responsible business conduct in several areas, including employment, human rights, supply chain responsibility, the environment, consumer protection and competition.
Adopted in 1976, the OECD Guidelines are part of the OECD Declaration on International Investment and Multinational Enterprises. They represent a political commitment by countries adhering to the Declaration by:
- establishing a transparent and open environment for international investment;
- promoting the positive contribution of multinationals to economic and social progress.
The common thread of these Principles is the social responsibility of companies throughout their supply chain.
The OECD Guidelines represent standards of responsible behaviour in compliance with applicable laws. 49 countries (including Belgium) have adopted these Principles and are committed to promoting and monitoring their compliance by companies.
In addition, there are two other major international instruments dedicated to corporate social responsibility:
- the United Nations Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights (2011); and
- the International Labour Organization Tripartite Declaration of Principles concerning Multinational Enterprises and Social Policy (5th edition - 2017).
The 2011 revision of the OECD Guidelines has strengthened the links between these different texts, on the one hand, by integrating the "protect, respect and remedy" framework established by the United Nations and, on the other hand, by aligning the chapter on employment and industrial relations (chapter 5) with the International Labour Organization (ILO) Declaration.
Goals of the OECD Guidelines
The OECD Guidelines have the following objectives:
- ensuring that the activities of multinationals are carried out in a sustainable and responsible manner;
- strengthening mutual trust between companies and the societies in which they operate;
- enhancing the contribution of multinationals to sustainable development and well-being.
Countries subscribing to the OECD Guidelines should ensure that they are applied globally and locally by their companies.
Although they are addressed to multinationals, the Guidelines reflect practices applicable to all companies, regardless of their position in the supply chain (concept of due diligence).
The concept of due diligence
The concept of due diligence is a continuous process of progressive improvement of companies' activities. It is based on an analysis of the risks incurred throughout the supply chain, particularly in environmental, social and governance matters.
The Federal Public Service Economy, Belgian relay of the OECD Guidelines
Belgium, through the FPS Economy, SMEs, Self-Employed and Energy, played a pioneering role in drawing up the Guidelines in 1976, and then in updating them, the latest dating back from 2011.
Belgium ensures that these Principles are applicable worldwide by its large and small companies with domestic and foreign activities.
National Contact Point
The OECD Guidelines are supported by a unique implementation mechanism in adhering countries, the National Contact Point (NCP).
Each country adhering to the Guidelines must establish an NCP. In Belgium, the FPS Economy hosts the National Contact Point.
The NCP monitors compliance with the OECD Guidelines. It has an information and promotion function among companies, civil society and other NCPs of the States adhering to the Declaration. It also plays a mediation and conciliation role between companies and members of civil society.
More information is available on the web page of the National Contact Point (NCP) for Responsible Business Conduct.
OECD Practical guides
The OECD has drafted several practical guides in order to assist companies in carrying out their due diligence, some of which have a sector-specific approach.
OECD (2017), Responsible business conduct for institutional investors : Key considerations for due diligence under the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises