Is your environment being polluted or damaged by business activity? Are you or fellow community members facing health or social problems from a company’s environmental harms? The OECD Guidelines may help you fight for a cleaner, healthier environment.

What the OECD Guidelines say about the environment

The OECD Guidelines set strong standards for businesses to avoid and address their environmental harms and contribute to sustainable development. The Guidelines recognise that companies are often involved with environmental harms including climate change; biodiversity loss; degradation of land, marine, and freshwater ecosystems; deforestation; air, water, and soil pollution; and mismanagement of waste, including hazardous substances. The Guidelines expect companies to address such impacts. You can use the OECD Guidelines to demand that companies:

  • Have an environmental plan involving risk-based due diligence to address all environmental impacts of their operations, products, and services.
  • Identify and assess harmful environmental impacts, preparing environmental impact assessments where harms may be significant.
  • Set science-based targets and strategies to resolve or reduce environmental impacts, including on climate change, and regularly verify their effectiveness.
  • Engage meaningfully with affected people, including by providing communities and workers with timely and accurate information on harms and progress in addressing harms.
  • Remediate environmental and related human harms or encourage their remediation, depending on the company’s responsibility for the harms.
  • Continually improve environmental performance by adopting better technologies and producing more circular, eco-friendly products.


The Guidelines define adverse environmental impacts as “significant changes” in the environment or biota that have harmful effects. Civil society should explain how the harm they face is significant (for example, because of its likelihood and its broad scale, wide scope, or irreversible character). If a company argues the harm is necessary to meet a (non-environmental) national priority like energy production, civil society should remind the company or complaints body that the company still needs to meet its responsibility to avoid and reduce the harm, implement best technologies, and continually improve environmental performance.

Read the text

  • Chapter VI (Environment): chapeau and paragraphs; all commentaries

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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