U.S. Ambassador to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Daniel Yohannes will lead a U.S. Government delegation to the OECD’s second annual Global Forum on Responsible Business Conduct June 26-27, in Paris. Ambassador Yohannes and his team will engage with senior government officials and leaders of industry, trade unions, and civil society to discuss practical ways of implementing principles of responsible business practices. The principal sessions at the Forum will be broadcast live on the OECD website.
Promoting responsible business conduct is a core element of economic diplomacy, as it supports global peace and prosperity, sustainable development, stability, and security. U.S. businesses have been global leaders in striving to uphold high standards. Governments, businesses, and the full range of stakeholders all have roles to play to promote responsible business conduct, including protection of the environment, and respect for rule of law, for labor rights, and for human rights.
The OECD’s role in responsible business conduct is grounded in the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises (“Guidelines”), first adopted in 1976 and last updated in 2011. The Guidelines are one of the most comprehensive sets of recommendations for responsible business conduct, supported by more than 40 governments. The Guidelines are accompanied by a unique Specific Instance procedure, which is handled by “National Contact Points,” to seek to address concerns regarding implementation of the provisions set out in the Guidelines. The OECD serves as a continuing forum for governments to discuss implementation of the Guidelines, including the effectiveness of the National Contact Points, and to convene multi-stakeholder groups to promote best practices.
The United States is active in a number of the key issues to be discussed at the Forum:
Recognizing Good Performance: Through a U.S. Government inter-agency selection process, the Secretary of State gives the annual Award for Corporate Excellence (ACE) to U.S-based companies that have engaged in outstanding responsible business practices, including in relation to supply chain management, transparency, and respect for human rights. Secretary Kerry made remarks at the 15th ACE Award ceremony on January 29, where he issued the 2013 award to Taylor Guitars (for its responsible environmental stewardship in Cameroon), Fruit of the Loom (for its labor rights accomplishments in Honduras), and Plantronix (for its promotion of employee career development in Mexico.)
The United States has been a leader in promoting transparency and responsible governance of the extractive industries. We have been a strong supporter of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) since its creation, and this year became the first G-7 member to also implement EITI domestically. We helped to set a new standard for extractives transparency by being the first to adopt mandatory disclosure requirements for certain companies listed on U.S. stock exchanges. The EU and Canada are now doing the same. We have worked actively through the G-8 and G-7 to improve global practices, including the launch this year of the CONNEX initiative, aimed at helping countries negotiate more sustainable complex contracts, starting with the extractives.
- The United States actively promotes the global application of the OECD’s Due Diligence Guidance for Minerals from Conflict-Affected and High Risk Areas and we participate in the OECD’s multi-stakeholder process to encourage private sector implementation of the Due Diligence Guidance as an important tool to end the use of minerals to fund violent armed groups in the African Great Lakes Region. We support and encourage U.S. companies to source all minerals responsibly, including precious stones, and conduct effective supply chain due diligence.
Combating Foreign Bribery: The United States is an active member of the OECD Working Group on Bribery, which monitors implementation of the Anti-Bribery Convention by its Parties to promote the effective enforcement of foreign bribery laws. The Working Group has also issued the OECD Good Practice Guidance on internal controls, ethics, and compliance to assist companies in preventing and detecting foreign bribery.
Ready-Made Garment Industry in Bangladesh: We continue to work with all stakeholders in Bangladesh to implement real change in the ready-made garment sector in Bangladesh so as to avoid horrific incidents such as the Rana Plaza building collapse in April 2013.
Other Multi-Stakeholder Processes: We engage in other multi-stakeholder processes to promote best practices, such as the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights, which provides guidance for oil, mining, and gas companies in providing security for their operations in a manner that respects human rights. The United States is also active in work on responsible business conduct along agricultural supply chains at the OECD and in the negotiations on principles for responsible agricultural investment in the UN Committee on World Food Security.
The U.S. National Contact Point: In 2011 the United States augmented the U.S. National Contact Point for the OECD Guidelines on Multinational Enterprises by instituting a Stakeholder Advisory Board in addition to an interagency working group. We also participate in the OECD’s proactive agenda program, which is designed to identify and find solutions to challenges related to responsible business conduct outside of the NCP process.
Responsible Investment in Burma: The Department is implementing the Responsible Investment Reporting Requirements that were tied to the easing of sanctions on Burma in 2012. Reports submitted by U.S. companies investing in Burma are being posted on the website of the U.S. Embassy in Rangoon.
- Trade and Investment Agreements: All contemporary U.S. trade and investment agreements contain provisions related to labor and environmental issues. (Click here for information on U.S. trade agreements in existence and under negotiation, and here for a link to the U.S. model bilateral investment treaty.)
These and other initiatives are set out in the “U.S. Government Approach on Business and Human Rights,” which describes U.S. laws, regulations, and policies related to the intersection between business and human rights. For any questions, please contact the Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs Office of Public Diplomacy.
- Source: state.gov