The UK National Contact Point's Promotion and Implementation of the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises
Response to the Stakeholder Consultation

by The Corner House and RAID

first published 12 January 2006

The "Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises" are a set of voluntary principles and standards adopted by states that belong to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Multinational enterprises operating in or from OECD member states are expected to adhere to these Guidelines. The Guidelines provide a set of recommendations for "good corporate behaviour" in the areas of employment and industrial relations; environment; combating bribery; consumer interests; competition; and taxation.

The Guidelines were first drawn up in the 1970s as a result of concern about the behaviour and economic dominance of multinational companies. They were revised in 2000, giving NGOs the right to submit complaints against OECD-based companies to the adhering countries' National Contact Points (NCPs) -- government offices established to promote adherence to the Guidelines.

Although the Guidelines are non-binding, the complaints procedure is one of the few mechanisms available internationally to hold companies to account. NGOs and trade unions have filed over 100 complaints since the Guidelines were revised.

In October 2005, the UK Government announced a multi-stakeholder consultation to assess the implementation of the Guidelines in the UK. This document is a joint submission by The Corner House and RAID (Rights and Accountability In Development) to that consultation. Between them, RAID and The Corner House have filed more than 12 complaints with the UK and four other NCPs and thus have substantial experience upon which to draw in making their own recommendations.

The submission raises several concerns about the implementation of the complaints procedure in the UK. It recommends that the NCP's office be given the status of an ombudsman; independence of any government department; and responsibility for mediating between a company and complainant and for determining compliance.