OECD corporate guidelines finalised

Stronger prescriptions for environmental responsibility adopted by 34 governments

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) today released revised guidelines for multinational companies, including an environmental chapter much strengthened since a previous 1991 version. The text was formally adopted at the OECD's annual ministerial meeting in Paris, which ended today.

The guidelines for multinational enterprises are non-binding recommendations on responsible business conduct. They are now backed by the governments of all 29 OECD member countries plus Slovakia, Argentina, Brazil and Chile.

Unchanged since a second draft released in March (ENDS Daily 16 March), an environmental chapter calls on firms to contribute to sustainable development through a range of specified measures. These include establishment of an environmental management system, assessment of life-cycle environmental impacts and adoption of targets to reduce them, acceptance of the need for precautionary action in some circumstances, and aiming for continually improved environmental performance.

In other developments at the OECD meeting, ministers reaffirmed that achievement of sustainable development remained a "major overarching goal" and noted that new OECD reports on the issue were awaited in 2001. They also pledged to contribute to the ten-year review of the 1992 Rio "Earth summit" in 2002. Ministers called for more action to ensure sustainable management of fisheries and launched preparations for a conference next year on environmental impacts of genetically modified organisms.

* In a related development, a survey of German, French and British "opinion leaders" has concluded that environmental issues will continue to become more important for businesses as part of a wider corporate social responsibility agenda. "Corporate social responsibility is on the mainstream agenda for public customers," said communications firm Burson-Marsteller, which carried out the research. "On almost every front, business is being pressed to assume responsibilities it has not always been prepared to face".

Follow Up:
OECD, tel: +33 1 45 24 82 00, and the guidelines, plus review process background; Burson Marsteller, tel: +44 20 78 31 62 62, plus survey press release and executive summary.

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