Ethical Performance
inside intelligence for responsible business


British government says it wants clearer Guidelines

June 2010

The UK government has said the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises need to be clearer, more practical and expanded to cover areas such as climate change.

Responding to the results of a consultation with businesses, trade unions and NGOs, the Department of Business Innovation and Skills has produced a document outlining the government’s position on the proposed update of the guidelines, which should be completed by the end of 2011.

The government says a key priority for the updated guidelines should be to make the wording more understandable and to promote them more widely.

But it also says the guidelines, which were last updated in 2000, should contain more practical guidance on the application of due diligence in supply chains and on respecting human rights, including gender equality.

It suggests the update should include:

a clarification of the guidelines to emphasise that while multinationals should conform to a host country’s law, they should also take into account the International Labour Organization Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work
an expansion of the existing recommendations on tackling climate change and additional wording on improving consumer education on the issue
more detailed guidance on the structure of National Contact Points, the NCP complaints process and the way  their final statements are followed up.

The UK, which is one of the few country signatories to conduct a consultation on them, feels that its NCP, which examines allegations of breaches involving British companies, should be a model for other countries.

However, the United States Council for International Business, which recently gave its views on the guidelines to the US government, said it saw no need for all NCPs to follow the same processes or structures.

The Council, which represents more than 300 multinational companies, law firms and business associations, said it would ‘strongly support’ the addition of a section in the guidelines on business and human rights.

But it argued that, at more than 60 pages, they are too long ‘and written in a manner that fails to speak clearly to their primary [business] audience’.

Organisation of Economic Co-operation & Development | UK & NI Ireland | Guidelines

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