Norwegian companies do not know that complaints may be filed against them for breaches on human rights and environmental damage to the Norwegian National Contact Point (NCP) for the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises.

Bribery of an agent, child labour at a supplier’s or emissions damaging to the environment abroad can lead to complaints against companies to the Norwegian NCP for OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. Very few Norwegian companies are aware of this.

A survey performed for the Norwegian NCP shows that:

  • Nine out of ten Norwegian companies with international business relations, neither know OECD Guidelines for multinational enterprises nor that Norway has a complaint mechanism on ethical grounds
  • Awareness of the OECD Guidelines is highest among the medium sized enterprises with 51-199 employees. Amongst these, 15 per cent are aware of the Guidelines. The awareness of a complaint mechanism on ethical grounds is higher among the larger enterprises. One out of three of the enterprises with more than 500 employees know the Guidelines. In the enterprises with 21-50 employees, 51-199 employees and 200-499 employees the share is respectively 16, 17 and 14 per cent.
  • The two largest groups of companies in the survey belong to the sectors industry and retail trade. Amongst 57 industrial enterprises with international business relations, one out of ten is aware of the OECD Guidelines and a complaint mechanism. Out of 120 retail trade companies with international business relations, approximately one out of 20 are aware of the Guidelines, while 13 per cent are aware of a complaint mechanism.

The survey was performed amongst 600 Norwegian enterprises in June 2011. 48 per cent of the participants had international business relations, either within production, agents or suppliers, investments or mother companies outside of Norway.

The OECD Guidelines aim to assist companies in contributing to sustainable development. Professor and Dean Hans Petter Graver is head of the Norwegian National Contact Point, the complaint mechanism that supports the Guidelines.

– Our task is to raise awareness of societal and governmental expectations to the business community, and contribute to help companies meet the expectations. This survey shows that we have an important job before us, Mr. Graver sais.

New expectations to the business community
The OECD Guidelines were updated on May 25, 2011. Three weeks later the UN Human Rights Council endorsed the UN Guiding Principles for business and human rights. Both the OECD and the UN now (have now established) determine that companies are expected to know and document that their activities do not infringe on others human rights. The OECD Guidelines also recommend companies to prevent and handle i.e. environmental damage and bribery. The recommendations apply to companies’ own activities and to the supply chain.

– In a global economy it is easy to misstep and lose sight over how your own activities impact on communities around the world. The Norwegian Contact Point is first and foremost seeking to solve conflicts related to challenges Norwegian companies face in respecting human rights and the environment, Mr. Graver comments.

As a member of the OECD, Norway is required to establish a national contact point, a so-called grievance mechanism. The Contact point provides information about the OECD Guidelines and handles complaints regarding possible breaches of the Guidelines by Norwegian companies with international operations.

The Norwegian contact point is not a legal body, but it can facilitate dialogue, offer mediation and assess whether a company has breached the Guidelines. The contact point receives funding and administrative support from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but operates independently of the government.