Are your land rights or lands being harmed or threatened by business activity? Have you or your community been forcefully removed from your home and land to make way for a business? The OECD Guidelines may help you fight for your land rights.

What the OECD Guidelines say about land rights

The OECD Guidelines expect companies to respect all internationally recognised human rights. This could include land rights as well as the many rights supported by land security, such as the rights to housing, food, health, and life. The Guidelines also acknowledge that harmful environmental impacts are often linked to impacts on land tenure rights and note the importance of responsible governance of tenure of lands, forests, and fisheries. You can use the OECD Guidelines to demand that companies:

  • Avoid causing or contributing to land rights harms and address and remediate such harms when they occur. This includes avoiding reprisals against people defending lands, forests, fisheries, and territories against business activity.
  • Help stop or reduce land rights harms directly linked to their business even if they do not cause or contribute to those harms.
  • Have an environmental plan involving risk-based due diligence to address all environmental impacts of their operations, products, and services, including impacts to land and tenure rights.
  • Communicate and engage meaningfully with affected communities, including throughout due diligence. This includes communities with legitimate tenure rights.
  • Ensure investments in land, forests, and fisheries do no harm and safeguard against dispossession of legitimate tenure right holders as addressed under the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure (VGGTs).


The Guidelines demand company respect for human rights broadly, and note the link between environmental harms and harms to land tenure rights. When fighting harms to their land tenure, civil society should use language from the Human Rights and Environment chapters, together, to underscore the Guidelines’ implicit call for companies to respect land tenure rights – including through remediating harm to tenure rights. Civil society should help companies and complaints bodies understand the meaning of respecting tenure rights by describing key aspects – like avoiding forced displacement and respecting undocumented, communal, and customary tenure – and referring to the VGGTs and other international or respected guidance on land rights.

Read the text

  • Chapter IV (Human rights): chapeau, paragraph 1-3 and 6
  • Chapter VI (Environment): commentaries 68, 70, 72, and 81

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.

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