A new chapter for the environment: the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) recently updated its Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises on Responsible Business Conduct, with considerable changes to the environmental section. The update is a reaction to current crises. But what does this mean for businesses?
Multinational companies have a direct impact on the environment and the working and living conditions of people. As a result, the amendment of the OECD guidelines in June 2023 sends a strong signal for sustainable business worldwide. The standards emphasise corporate responsibility for the environment, climate and human rights more than ever before. The update in the environmental chapter focuses on the major challenges of our time: the climate crisis, the biodiversity crisis and the increasing consumption of resources. For companies that want to make a contribution to sustainability, the guidelines serve as a critical means of orientation.
To mark the update, the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Nuclear Safety and Consumer Protection (BMUV) and the OECD Berlin Centre are organising an event on 14 September 2023 on the subject of “Companies & Responsibility for the Environment: The New OECD Guidelines”. adelphi is helping the BMUV design the content of the event. The conference will cover the key innovations of the environmental chapter, their political and regulatory context as well as corporate practices.
Innovations: Value chains and CO2 reduction targets
As non-binding standards for sustainable corporate management, the OECD Guidelines have been continuously updated since their introduction in 1976 in order to meet the new challenges of sustainable management. In addition to key social and technological developments, the 2023 amendment also looks at urgent ecological crises. Based on the updated requirements, companies from the contracting states are now required to reassess the impact of their activities on the environment, climate, people and society along the value chain and act accordingly. To this end, the companies should ensure, among other things, that their CO2 reduction targets are scientifically sound and correspond to the targets agreed in the Paris Agreement and the current assessments of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
The main changes are:
Comprehensive specification of the expectations of companies in the environmental chapter. The recommendations name examples of the environmental impacts that companies should take into account and formulate specific recommendations in accordance with international goals – for example climate protection, biodiversity, sensitive ecosystems and sustainable production.
Inclusion of due diligence recommendations in the science, technology and innovations chapter, e.g. on the development, financing and sale of technologies.
Expansion of the corruption chapter to now cover all forms of corruption.
Better protection of vulnerable groups, including protection of whistleblowers.
Event on ecologically sustainable corporate management
The BMUV event is dedicated to the challenges and opportunities of the new environmental chapter of the OECD Guidelines and is aimed at all those involved in sustainable corporate management, for example in companies, trade unions, NGOs, business associations or research. The event will take place in the atrium of the BMUV in Berlin and will be broadcast live. Registration for the event is possible via the event website.
Federal Environment Minister Steffi Lemke will open the event with a speech. After a presentation of the innovations in the environmental chapter by the German ambassador to the OECD, a panel will discuss the implications of the updated environmental chapter of the guidelines for companies, politics and legislation. Company representatives will then have their say and describe their practical experiences in implementing the requirements.