Questions and answers about the OECD National Contact Points
The OECD Guidelines are recommendations presented by governments to multinational enterprises for responsible business conduct in a global context. The Guidelines are based on internationally recognised standards. These include the International Bill of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work.
The Guidelines are the only code of responsible business conduct that governments have committed to promoting. The aim of the Guidelines is to promote the participation of enterprises in furthering economic, ecological and social development all over the world.
Compliance with the Guidelines is voluntary for enterprises. Compliance with the Guidelines, however, is monitored by the National Contact Points set up in each country bound by the Guidelines.
In accordance with the OECD Guidelines, each country that has undertaken to abide by the Guidelines must establish a National Contact Point. The role of the National Contact Points is to make the Guidelines known and answer questions about the Guidelines.
The countries abiding by the Guidelines can organise the activities of the National Contact Point as they wish, and the National Contact Point can also include representatives of business, social partners and non-governmental organisations. When organising the activities, it must be ensured that the basic principles set out for the National Contact Points in the Guidelines — visibility, accessibility, transparency and accountability — are met. The National Contact Points must have the trust of stakeholders. Regardless of the structure of the National Contact Points, they must also develop and maintain contacts with the representatives of the business community, worker organisations, non-governmental organisations and other interested parties.
Various parties may lodge a complaint with the National Contact Point concerning the conduct of an enterprise in relation to the Guidelines. In this case, the National Contact Point provides a discussion forum to deal with the complaint. During the complaint process, the National Contact Point must act in a manner that is impartial, predictable, equitable and compatible with the Guidelines.
In the complaint process, the National Contact Point makes an initial assessment of whether the issue raised merits further examination. The Guidelines define the criteria that the complaint must meet in order to qualify for further examination. These include, among other things, identification of the parties and their interests in the case, whether the case is real and well-founded and whether there appears to be a link between the enterprise’s activities and the case raised. If the criteria are not met, the National Contact Point decides not to examine the complaint further and publishes the decision with its grounds. If the criteria are met, the National Contact Point accepts the complaint for further examination. Thus, accepting the case for further examination does not yet mean that the enterprise had breached the Guidelines; it only means that the criteria for further examination are met.
The National Contact Point initially offers mediation to the parties. If the parties reach an agreement during mediation, the National Contact Point concludes the process and publishes the result on the website of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment. If one party or both parties refuse mediation, the National Contact Point can examine the content of the complaint in more detail. For further examination, the National Contact Point can request additional clarification from the parties and, as appropriate, from other experts. To conclude the procedure, the National Contact Point publishes the final statement on the Ministry’s website. The statement may include recommendations. The National Contact Point may also take a stand on whether the enterprise subject to the complaint has complied with the Guidelines. In Finland, the National Contact Point does this.
In processing the complaint, the National Contact Point takes into account the need to preserve the confidentiality of sensitive business and other information.
To conclude the complaint procedure, the National Contact Point gives the OECD a report on the complaint and its outcome.
Any party can file a complaint with the National Contact Point. A complaint can also be lodged by more than one party acting together.
The complaint must apply to paragraphs in the OECD Guidelines and must concern a multinational enterprise. The National Contact Points do not address disputes between enterprises.
The complaint must concern either an enterprise operating in the country of the National Contact Point or an enterprise having its headquarters in the country.
The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment informs the Committee on Corporate Social Responsibility about the main features of the complaint and requests the Committee to nominate candidates from among its members to the Subdivision processing the complaint. The Ministry appoints the Subdivision on the basis of proposals made by the Committee. The Subdivision assumes responsibility for handling the complaint with the support of a Secretariat consisting of civil servants from the Ministry. At the end of the complaint process, the Subdivision presents the final result to the Committee, which in turn presents its own view to the Minister of Employment. The Minister of Employment signs the final decision on the complaint.
The members of the Committee on Corporate Social Responsibility and the Minister of Employment participate in decision-making concerning the complaint. In processing complaints, the Committee members are personally subject to liability for acts in office, as referred to in the Decree on the Committee. The members form their views independently, without consulting their own background organisations, and treat information related to complaints confidentially. The members must also assess whether a case involves a conflict of interest for them. If members have a conflict of interest, they must recuse themselves and cannot participate in the complaint process.