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Steps to filing a complaint

Before filing a complaint NGOs should question whether the OECD Guidelines complaint procedure is the appropriate mechanism to achieve their goals. Has a company dialogue already been attempted or does a court case offer better possibilities? If it has been decided to pursue the OECD Guidelines complaint procedure, taking the following steps to actually file the complaint is recommended.

Step 1 – Consider a complaint:

  • Clearly define the specific violation that has occurred and determine which companies you believe to be responsible or involved.
  • Consider the benefits of a Guidelines complaint as well as the limitations of the mechanism. Consider whether another strategy might be more effective or efficient. Simultaneous strategies are possible.
  • Be aware of the time and resources required for the complaint process.

Step 2 – Assess the feasibility of the complaint:

  • Consider whether your issue is covered in the OECD Guidelines. Identify which chapters and provisions have been breached.
  • Map the involvement and relationships of corporate entities in the issue (e.g. parent companies, subsidiaries, joint ventures, financers, supply chain partners, other business relationships).
  • Identify the appropriate National Contact Point(s) (NCPs) and their particular rules for handling complaints.

Step 3 – Identify the desired outcomes:

  • Identify your demands of the enterprise (e.g. change policies or specific practices, prevent harm, remediate adverse impacts, etc.).
  • Specify your request to the NCP (e.g. facilitate mediation, conduct fact-finding, assess compliance, issue recommendations, etc.).
  • Determine the issues you are willing to compromise on and those that are non-negotiable.
  • Consider other positive and negative outcomes of the complaint (e.g. improved government policies, change of industry practice, greater public awareness through publicity, etc.).

Step 4 – Write the complaint:

OECD Watch has developed a template that CSOs can use to write a clear, complete, concise and persuasive complaint. At a minimum, complaints must include: the identity of the complainants; the alleged violation(s); the enterprise(s) and its/their involvement or contribution to the issue; the provision(s) of the OECD Guidelines allegedly breached; evidence supporting each alleged violation; demands of the enterprise(s); requests to the NCP.

Step 5 – File the complaint and engage in the specific instance process:

The complaint should be submitted to the appropriate NCP, either by email or by post. The NCP process includes multiple stages, such as:

  • Initial assessment: The NCP considers whether the complaint merits further examination. Anticipate writing multiple responses to the NCP and providing additional information and clarification.
  • Mediation: The NCP seeks to bring the parties together for mediation aimed at reaching a mutually acceptable solution. Anticipate attending meetings with the NCP and the company as part of the mediation.
  • Determination: If mediation fails, NCPs can make an assessment of alleged violations.

Step 6 – Final statement and follow-up:

To conclude the process, the NCP should issue a public final statement.

  • If mediation was successful, the statement should outline the issues, process and joint agreement reached.
  • If mediation fails, the statement should outline the issues,  process and recommendations to the parties. OECD Watch expects NCPs to include an assessment of alleged violations in the final statement.
  • The statement should include provisions for monitoring of and follow-up on the agreements or recommendations. Anticipate commenting on multiple drafts and negotiating wording.


For more information on preparing and filing an OECD Guidelines complaint read OECD Watch's Guide Calling for Corporate Accountability: A Guide to the 2011 OECD Guideline.

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