OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises (intro text)
The Guidelines are government recommendations for good corporate behaviour that are primarily addressed to multinational enterprises based in those countries that adhere to them.
These include at present the 30 OECD countries, plus Argentina, Brazil,
Chile, Egypt, Estonia, Israel, Latvia, Lithuania, Peru, Romania and Slovenia. Moreover, the
Guidelines apply wherever these companies operate not just in the
The Guidelines include prescriptive chapters covering most aspects of company behaviour, from Employment and Industrial Relations to the Environment and Taxation. Though not binding in a legal sense, they are not optional for corporations, which cannot pick and choose among the provisions of the Guidelines nor subject them to their own interpretations. Their application does not depend on endorsement by companies. They are the only multilaterally endorsed and comprehensive rules that governments have negotiated, in which they commit themselves to help solve problems arising in corporations. Most importantly, the Guidelines are backed by an implementation procedure, where the ultimate responsibility for their enforcement lies with governments who have to establish National Contact Points (NCPs).
If a company is believed to be in breach of the Guidelines, a trade union, an NGO or another interested party can raise this as a case either with the NCP in the country where the violation occurred (if it is an adhering country) or the NCP in the country where the company is headquartered (if the problem arose in a non-adhering country). The NCP should then try to resolve the issue, through a range of available options that include offering a forum for discussion for the parties concerned, allowing conciliation or mediation.
Ultimately, if no agreement can be reached, the NCP is required to issue a public statement on the case. It could also make recommendations to the parties on how the Guidelines apply to the case. NCPs may, therefore, inform a corporation that its activities infringe the Guidelines. Whilst the Guidelines are not legally binding, the mere fact that the conclusions of NCPs should be in the public domain can have an impact and affect company behaviour.
Trade unions are also seeking to make the provision of public funds to corporations such as export credits and investment guarantees conditional upon observance of the Guidelines.
For more information on the Guidelines, NCPs and how to raise a case, TUAC has developed a User's Guide.