The OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises are the only multilaterally agreed instrument of responsible business conduct that adhering governments have committed to promote. They cover all major areas of business ethics. Their recommendations are set out in 11 chapters:
1. Concepts and principles
This chapter sets out the concepts and principles that put into context all the recommendations in the subsequent chapters. They are the backbone of the OECD Guidelines
2. General policies
This chapter is the first to contain specific recommendations to enterprises in the form of general policies that set the tone and establish a framework of common principles for the subsequent chapters. They include the need to carry out due diligence to identify and prevent actual and potential adverse impacts of business activities as well as to encourage local capacity building and engage in stakeholder dialogues on responsible supply chain management.
The OECD Guidelines call upon enterprises to ensure that timely and regular information is disclosed on all material matters regarding their activities and the impact they may have. Disclosure policies of enterprises include financial information as well as social-, environment- and risk-related data and should be tailored to the nature, size and location of the enterprise.
4. Human Rights
Irrespective of the states' duty to protect human rights, enterprises have the responsibility to respect human rights in their locations, activities and along the entire supply chain. This chapter, introduced during the 2011 update, provides important criteria for enterprises on how to observe due diligence and prevent violations of human rights and is consistent with the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (Ruggie Principles).
5. Employment and industrial relations
The OECD Guidelines request observance of the core labour standards of the International Labour Organisation (ILO): freedom of association and negotiation, elimination of all forms of forced or child labour as well as non-discrimination in employment and occupation. Other recommendations concern an open approach to providing information on changes in an enterprise's operations as well as recommendations on the recruitment and training of local workers.
The text of the Environment Chapter broadly reflects the principles and objectives of the most important international agreements in this area (Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, Agenda 21, Aarhus Convention). Enterprises are encouraged to avoid adverse impacts of their activities on the environment. To this end, the recommendations of the OECD Guidelines include the introduction of an efficient environmental management system as well as transparent environmental reporting on compliance with the precautionary approach. Moreover, enterprises are to develop contingency plans for emergencies.
7. Combating bribery, bribe solicitation and extortion
Bribery and corruption pose a threat to democratic institutions and the governance of corporations Enterprises have an important role to play in combating these practices. The recommendations of the OECD Guidelines on combating corruption are based on international agreements such as the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery. Enterprises should not, directly or indirectly, offer, promise, give, or request bribes. They should resist the solicitation of bribes and disclose their efforts made to combat acts of corruption.
8. Consumer interests
The OECD Guidelines call upon enterprises to ensure fair business, marketing and advertising practices as well as the quality and reliability of the goods and services they provide – specifically with a view to complying with standards for consumer health and safety, furnishing transparent product information, establishing user-friendly systems for customer enquiries and respecting consumer privacy. The Consumer Interests Chapter draws, inter alia, on the work of the OECD Committee on Consumer Policy, the International Chamber of Commerce and the United Nations.
9. Science and technology
The OECD Guidelines underscore the potential of enterprises for technology transfer across borders: research and development activities can help enhance the economic and social progress in the host countries, while opening up new commercial opportunities in these markets. With due regard to the protection of intellectual property rights and fair competition, enterprises should tap this potential through the transfer and rapid diffusion of technologies and know-how, e.g. by cooperation with local universities and research entities.
The recommendations of the OECD Guidelines on the protection of fair competition comprise compliance with all applicable competition laws and regulations taking into account the competition laws of all host jurisdictions. For this purpose enterprises are requested, inter alia, to refrain from entering into anti-competitive agreements and to cooperate with investigating competition authorities.
It is important that enterprises contribute to the public finances of host countries by making timely payment of their tax liabilities. Tax revenue is used to finance public services such as education systems, infrastructure and healthcare facilities of which, in turn, the enterprises benefit. The recommendations of the OECD Guidelines relate in particular to compliance with tax laws, the inclusion of such compliance in risk management systems and the provision of information to tax authorities.
Austrian NCP for the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises
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