OECD Global Forum on Responsible Business Conduct - opening remarks


Opening Remarks by Angel Gurría

OECD Secretary-General

20 June 2018, OECD, Paris

(As prepared for delivery) 



Ambassadors, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Welcome to the 6th edition of the Global Forum on Responsible Business Conduct. I am delighted to see so many leaders and experts from all over the world, from the public and private sectors, international organisations and civil society. Your presence is a testament of our shared engagement to deliver open and level playing fields, which put competition, integrity and responsibility at their heart.

We have delivered game-changing RBC instruments

Working together, we have achieved great progress. Look no further than the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, which are now over 40 years old and regularly updated. The OECD has also produced guidance for due diligence for specific sectors, including minerals, agriculture, garment and footwear, extractives, and finance.

And building on these existing instruments, we have developed general due diligence guidance that can be used in any sector. The new OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Business Conduct, which was adopted by our Members at the Ministerial Council Meeting last month, is directed at all enterprises, large and small, covers every business sector, and is global in scope.

Let me give you a great “real life” example of how our work is making a difference.

The London Metals Exchange (LME) announced in April that it would require all producers to comply with the OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals, for all metals traded on the LME. This will mean that 75% of metals traded will have to meet OECD due diligence requirements. Based on the same Guidance, the company De Beers is piloting a programme to create a secure and transparent route to markets for artisanal and small-scale mined diamonds.

In another important sector, Diageo, the beverage multinational, is using our guidance to address barriers to gender equality in the workplace. And right here at the OECD, our procurement services will use the new general Due Diligence Guidance, to lead by example.

For all these instruments, not least the MNE Guidelines, implementation is key.

The crucial role of National Contact Points

This is where the National Contact Points (NCPs) have proven to be remarkably effective. Adhering governments are required to set one up. NCPs promote the Guidelines and help to resolve any issues that may arise from their implementation, and in particular, from any non-observance of the Guidelines.

In 2017, over 80% of the cases in which NCPs offered mediation led to an agreement between the parties.

Let me highlight three recent examples.

  • The French NCP’s intervention in a case related to a bank (Natixis) led to hotel workers ultimately being able to join a union after two years of conflict with management.

  • The Dutch NCP offered mediation in a case involving 168 former employees of a brewing company (Heineken) in the Democratic Republic of Congo, who for 17 years had been in court fighting their dismissal during the civil war. The result was significant financial compensation.

  • The Swiss NCP was instrumental in the commitment made by a sport governing body (FIFA) to mainstream human rights in its operations, including the protection of migrant workers building stadiums. 

We are now also seeing cases concerning the financial sector. The Dutch NCP is currently handling a case related to the climate change policy of a bank (ING) and the Swiss NCP is looking at the impact of another bank’s (Crédit Suisse) financial operations linked to the Dakota Access Pipeline on the environment and on the rights of indigenous peoples.

However the NCP landscape is not even. Some countries are clearly not doing enough. The OECD is helping under-performing NCPs improve their functioning and results through its peer review mechanism. We have so far completed ten peer reviews, three are ongoing, and seven more are in the pipeline. Stronger NCPs across all adhering countries are indispensable to ensure that the MNE Guidelines are effective and help to promote a truly level playing field.

As we discussed last month at our Ministerial Council Meeting on reshaping the foundations of multilateralism, our interconnected world requires coordinated multilateral solutions and standards. RBC is particularly crucial for this effort as we face a moment of unprecedented transformation in our economies and our societies, with deeply interconnected flows of capital, people, goods, technology, services and ideas all over the world, accompanied by falling trust in many countries.

OECD is expanding the reach of its RBC instruments

This is why the OECD is expanding the reach of its RBC instruments at the multilateral level and promoting responsible supply chains globally, at every stage of the value chain.

For example, we have just launched a new project on responsible supply chains in Asia, a region where roughly 40% of global value chain intermediate exports and imports take place. We will also shortly launch another project targeting Latin American countries. And we are partnering with the EU, ILO and the UN in this important work.

We also continue to work very closely with the G20 and the current Argentinian Presidency, supporting their commitment to end all forms of modern slavery. Our work on due diligence in agricultural supply chains, for example, also supports the Presidency’s priority on building “a sustainable food future”.

We need to keep this effort. The world is facing many challenges, trade wars, migration, eroding trust in institutions, but we must uphold our values and make globalisation work for all. We need governments to provide clear signals that RBC is a priority, and that attracting trade and investment at the expense of people’s and the planet’s well-being is simply not acceptable. And companies too, regardless of their size, must assume their responsibilities towards society, and integrate RBC into their DNA.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The French writer Antoine de Saint-Exupéry once said that “to be human is to be responsible; […] to be aware, when setting one stone, that you are building a world.” Stone by stone, many businesses are recognising their responsibilities and helping to build a better world. We have come so far but we need to go further, working with other policy, regulatory and stakeholder communities, including in corporate governance and integrity.

Please do not hold back, we need to be bold, we need vision and ambition in thinking about the purpose and the future of companies, particularly in light of the changes brought by the Future of Work. The OECD is ready to work with you and for you in all these areas to design, develop and deliver better RBC policies and tools for better lives.



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