The OECD guidelines are a non-binding code of conduct for multinational firms on a broad range of issues including employment, information disclosure, competition and taxation. An environment chapter added when the text was last revised in 1991 is being greatly enlarged and strengthened, including addition of sustainable development as the "wider goal".
Other new elements include a requirement for environmental management systems to include measurable objectives and targets accompanied by regular monitoring. Companies should assess their environmental impacts over the full life-cycle of products and processes and should seek continual improvement of environmental performance. Firms should also stand ready to take precautionary action where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage to the environment or human health and safety.
The draft issued yesterday contains further strengthening of some of these elements, including a requirement for firms to act in a manner that "contributes to," rather than one "consistent with," sustainable development. Firms are called on to immediately report accidents and emergencies. A new paragraph urges companies to engage in "partnerships or initiatives that will enhance environmental awareness and protection".
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