Do you work to promote good animal welfare and expose inhumane treatment of animals? Do you know animals of any species that are being mistreated in connection with business activity? The OECD Guidelines may help you fight for corporate respect for animal welfare.

What the OECD Guidelines say about animal welfare

The OECD Guidelines call on enterprises to respect animal welfare standards that are consistent with the World Organisation for Animal Health Terrestrial Code. According to the Guidelines, an animal experiences good welfare if it is not suffering from unpleasant states such as pain, fear, and distress, and is able to express behaviours important for its physical and mental state. You can use the OECD Guidelines to demand that companies:

  • Respect high animal welfare standards.
  • Ensure disease prevention and appropriate veterinary care, shelter, management, and nutrition.
  • Create a stimulating and safe environment for animals.
  • Ensure humane handling and humane slaughter or killing.

Adhere to guidance on transport of live animals developed by relevant international organisations.


To encourage companies to conduct due diligence to address harms to animal welfare, civil society should cite the Guidelines’ broad definition of environmental impacts to justify the interpretation that harms to animal welfare are adverse environmental impacts subject to due diligence expectations. Civil society should cite the Guidelines’ standards on biodiversity conservation, alongside the standards on animal welfare, to justify the interpretation that the Guidelines broadly seek respect for the welfare of captive and wild animal species whose welfare is harmed by business activity. Civil society should consider filing strategic complaints to secure government endorsement of a broad interpretation of the scope of the Guidelines’ expectations on due diligence over the welfare of all animal species.

Read the text

  • Chapter VI (Environment): chapeau, paragraphs 1 and 5; commentaries 66, 68, 80, 81, and 85

Additional important information

What are the OECD Guidelines?

The OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises on Responsible Business Conduct (OECD Guidelines) are recommendations from governments to companies on how to act responsibly. The OECD Guidelines set non-binding standards for responsible business conduct across a range of issues important to communities, such as human rights, workers rights, and the environment, and also cover issues such as corruption and taxation.

Governments that follow the OECD Guidelines must establish a non-judicial complaints body called a National Contact Point for Responsible Business Conduct to promote the Guidelines and handle complaints about harmful business activity. The Guidelines set good standards for all companies, but complaints can only be filed against two types of companies operating across borders:

  1. multinational enterprises headquartered in a country that follows the OECD Guidelines, or
  2. multinational enterprises operating in a country that follows the OECD Guidelines.

How can you use the OECD Guidelines?

Civil society can use the Guidelines to:

  • Raise community awareness about company standards.
  • Talk to companies to demand better conduct.
  • File complaints when companies fall below the standards.
  • Advocate for strong laws and policies on corporate responsibility.

 Further resources