Are your human rights – like the rights to health, housing, food, security, life, and freedom of speech and assembly – being harmed because of business activity? The OECD Guidelines may help your human rights to be respected by companies.

What the OECD Guidelines say about human rights

The OECD Guidelines call on companies to respect all internationally recognised human rights and address human rights harms in which they are involved. You can use the OECD Guidelines to demand that companies:

  • Avoid causing or contributing to human rights harms and address and remediate such harms when they occur. This includes avoiding reprisals against people opposing the business activity.
  • Help prevent or mitigate human rights harms directly linked to their business even if they do not cause or contribute to those harms.
  • Carry out human rights due diligence that takes into account distinct and intersecting risks related to individual characteristics or to vulnerable or marginalised groups.
  • Engage meaningfully with impacted communities and workers, including throughout due diligence. Engagement is “meaningful” if it is ongoing, timely, accessible, appropriate, and safe for stakeholders and if it involves two-way communication, good faith (meaning respect, honesty, and genuine intent to find solutions to the harms), and responsiveness to stakeholders’ views.
  • Pay special attention to harms to individuals facing heightened risk due to marginalisation or vulnerability, and make necessary adaptations to eliminate barriers for people to engage.


To ensure the strongest possible interpretation of the Human Rights chapter, civil society should cite language in the commentary of the General Policies chapter stating that where a company is directly linked to an adverse impact, it is responsible for using leverage to influence the entity causing the impact to remediate it. Civil society should also remind companies of their responsibility to avoid and address human rights impacts whenever they occur, including in relation to other topics in the Guidelines (such as environment, corruption, taxation, etc.).

Read the text

  • Chapter II (General Policies): paragraphs 10-13 and 15; commentaries 14-23, 25, and 28
  • Chapter IV (Human Rights): all paragraphs and commentaries
  • Chapter VI (Environment): paragraph 2; commentaries 72 and 79
  • Chapter VII (Combating Bribery and Other Forms of Corruption): commentaries 87 and 90

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