Is your community being harmed by business activity related to technology? Do you know a business that isn’t addressing its human rights and environmental harms related to technology and digitalisation? The OECD Guidelines may help you fight these problems.

What the OECD Guidelines say about technology and responsible business conduct

The OECD Guidelines recognise that technology and digitalisation can have profound and negative impacts on the issues covered by the Guidelines, including human and labour rights and the environment. The Guidelines call on companies to address harms related to science, technology, and innovation. You can use the OECD Guidelines to demand that companies:

  • Conduct due diligence on harms related to technology, covering the development, financing, sale, licensing, trade, and use of technology, including gathering and using data. Due diligence should:
    • Look both upstream and downstream at all aspects of a company’s activities and operations (that is, both development and sale of products and services).
    • Take into account impacts related to known or reasonably foreseeable proper use as well as misuse of products or services, including (mis)use by individual consumers.
    • Assess all kinds of harms, from impacts on human rights or the environment, to impacts on the quality of democracy, social cohesion, and the global business and labour landscape.
  • Enhance the transparency of data access and sharing practices.
  • Encourage the adoption of responsible data governance practices including codes of conduct, ethical principles, rules against manipulation and coercion of consumers, and privacy and data protections.
  • Address ethical, legal, labour, social, and environmental challenges related to the development and design of new technologies.
  • Respect children’s rights in relation to technology and take their interests as a primary consideration.
  • Try to identify situations where certain actors (such as authoritarian governments) may seek to benefit from technology transfer in order to misuse civilian technology.


Civil society should consider filing complaints challenging diverse harms associated with technology (from environmental, to workers rights, to social harms) to help develop the practical scope of the Science, Technology, and Innovation chapter. Civil society should also cite other leading guidance for responsible technology, urge company alignment with best practice, and remind companies and complaints bodies that the chapter is meant to be broad and inclusive to stay relevant to future technological developments.

Read the text

  • Chapter IX (Science, Technology, and Innovation): chapeau, paragraphs 2 and 6; commentaries 105-106 and 112-115
  • Chapter II (General Policies): commentary 17

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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