New York, N.Y., June 09, 2023—On June 8, OECD governments adopted the revised Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises on Responsible Business Conduct. USCIB and its members have long recognized and promoted the Guidelines as the most comprehensive, government-backed, voluntary practical framework for responsible business conduct. We proudly advocate for responsible business conduct and recognize the crucial role that businesses have in promoting sustainable practices. This revised version, however, promulgates new far-reaching expectations on companies, raising serious concerns about its practicality.
U.S. businesses have consistently demonstrated their leading role in corporate social responsibility, championing initiatives that drive positive change across industries worldwide. Our unwavering commitment to the highest practicable standards for responsible business conduct remains, and we stand ready to support and implement international cooperation across private and public sectors to prioritize sustainability, fair labor practices and social responsibility.
The 2022-2023 revision of the Guidelines has resulted in substantial, far-reaching, and sometimes unimplementable changes, significantly expanding the complexity, scale, and scope of expectations on multinational enterprises and other businesses, posing risks to the Guidelines’ serving as a practical, voluntary reference for companies. Our concerns encompass, among others, upstream and downstream due diligence for an expanded range of business relationships, even beyond contractual agreements, and new approaches on environment and climate change due diligence.
USCIB actively participated in all negotiation rounds as part of Business at OECD (BIAC), and we align with their views on the revised Guidelines. Along the process, we provided constructive, comprehensive, and consensus-based private sector inputs, and while we greatly appreciate the consultations and recognize that many of our comments were reflected in the text, we regret that the revision process was not more aligned with previous practice, when OECD institutional stakeholders co-drafted the text together with the OECD Secretariat, thus ensuring business buy-in.
We welcome the fact that the voluntary and aspirational nature of the Guidelines was preserved. However, we remain concerned that some new provisions might conflict with U.S. law, particularly the right of association for workers without employment relationships. In addition, this document should not be considered as a template for binding regulatory or legislative action at international, regional, national, or local levels. Effective responsible business conduct legislation depends on laws that are practical and reflect views of the private sector along with realities on the ground. We stand ready to provide guidance and suggestions to governments in this respect.
Companies will need sufficient time to assess the newly introduced complexities. We stress the importance of a balanced approach to implementation, taking into account business realities and complex contexts, especially in states with significant institutional, rule of law or enforcement challenges.
This expression of serious concern should not be interpreted as a rejection of business commitment and action to advance human rights globally, tackle environmental challenges, promote good practices wherever it operates, and contribute to partnership and positive impact for people and planet. We remain committed to the highest responsible business conduct standards, while enabling, facilitating, and supporting conditions for business to thrive and contribute to delivery of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
USCIB and its members look forward to working with the OECD, its member states, and other stakeholders to advance the critical role of business in tackling sustainability challenges, promoting job creation, innovation, and investment, and informing sound policy and its implementation. We are committed to advancing and amplifying OECD’s best implementable practices and will continue to serve as a proponent of and champion for promoting responsible business conduct globally.
The United States Council for International Business (USCIB) advances the global interests of American business. We do so through advocacy for an open system of world trade, finance, and investment, where business can flourish and contribute to economic growth, human welfare, and environmental protection. We play a leading role in informing the negotiation and adoption of international labor standards, and in human rights, labor, and environmental policy deliberations at the United Nations, OECD, and ILO, as the sole U.S. affiliate of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), Business at OECD (BIAC) and the International Organization of Employers (IOE). In addition, USCIB is the only U.S. business organization with standing at the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), and is recognized at the UN Environment Program (UNEP), UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (UN CBD).