Preparing for the Future: The OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises are Revised

The OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises on Responsible Business Conduct recently announced a revision to its content. Not since 2011 had these iconic Guidelines been revised. The new version of the Guidelines features important new themes, expanding on what it means to be a responsible enterprise. The new and expanded themes give us key insights into responsible business conduct, including:

  • Climate Change and Biodiversity
  • Technology and Data
  • Due Diligence on Products and Services
  • Protection for at Risk Groups
  • Disclosure
  • Due Diligence on Corruption
  • Lobbying  
  • Strengthened procedures for the National Contact Points

Progress made on Human Rights

The revised Guidelines make significant in-roads around human rights issues. Under the 2023 revision, companies are expected to conduct risk-based due diligence with all business relationships including with suppliers. Stakeholder engagement is considered to be an integral part of the due diligence process.

In addition, the revised Guidelines reference “human rights defenders”.  The United Nations defines human rights defenders as individuals or groups who act to promote, protect, or strive for the protection and realisation of human rights and fundamental freedoms.” According to the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders the updated Guidelines “call on companies to take steps to mitigate risks of retaliation against human rights defenders and to refrain from any such retaliation themselves.” 

Key areas of focus

The 2023 OECD Guidelines also address the risks of e-commerce, digital security, sustainability-related product claims, training for up-skilling and re-skilling, and how to manage a green transition and transition to an increasingly automated workplace.

About the OECD Guidelines

The OECD Guidelines are among the oldest and most comprehensive set of guidelines available on responsible business. Initially released in 1976, the Guidelines are agreed upon by OECD governments and directed towards companies. The Guidelines are voluntary and non-binding.

About the OECD

The Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) promotes policies that contribute to economic growth and development. Founded in 1961, the OECD is a membership organisation for governments from 38 countries, including many European countries, Japan, Korea, Australia, Mexico, and Chile.

What makes the Guidelines different from other voluntary standards?

The Guidelines include a mechanism for addressing complaints and issues which may arise, known as National Contact Points. Each member country of the OECD must appoint a National Contact Point (NCP) to promote the Guidelines.