OECD guidelines for multi-national enterprises

The OECD produces a set of voluntary guidelines and recommendations on responsible, sustainable multi-national business conduct. It covers issues including:

  • information disclosure
  • employment
  • industrial relations
  • human rights
  • environmental issues
  • combating bribery
  • consumer interests
  • science and technology
  • competition
  • taxation.

First adopted in 1976, the guidelines have been regularly updated.  The standards of behaviour and good practice are additional to the laws of the countries where a business operates.  They are not legally enforceable and do not override or substitute local laws. The last update was in 2011.

All OECD members and an additional eight countries are committed to promote the guidelines among the business sector.

Why are the guidelines important?

The business community shares responsibility to restore growth and trust in markets.  The guidelines will help the private sector grow their business responsibly by promoting human rights and boosting social development around the world.

Who is expected to follow the guidelines?

Multi-national businesses are the main focus, such as a New Zealand company that also operates in Thailand, or an American-owned company operating in New Zealand.

It can also be applied to businesses with only domestic operations, that is part of an international supply chain.

Following all the guidelines may be difficult for smaller companies, particularly in developing countries.

Are there any tools to help businesses meet the guidelines?

MBIE has developed a short version of the guidelines, which is split into two parts. The first part can be used as a tool to assess the social responsibility ‘health’ of enterprises.

The second part can be used as a tool to assess the actions of governments adhering to the Guidelines


The OECD has developed a tool to help multinational enterprises manage risk in countries where governments are unwilling or unable to assume their responsibilities.

OECD Risk Awareness Tool for multinational enterprises in weak governance zone

The OECD has also developed guidance to help companies to respect human rights and avoid contributing to conflict through their mineral or metal purchasing decisions and practices.

Due diligence guidance for responsible supply chains of minerals from conflict-affected and high-risk areas

What happens if a business doesn't meet the recommended standards?

Although the guidelines are voluntary, they provide a format to raise issues about a company’s activity and behaviour.

Issues can be raised with the national contact point of the country where a problem has occurred, or if none is available, at the country where the multi-national is headquartered.

We are the national contact point for New Zealand.

If further action is needed, we will provide resolution assistance, such as mediation.  We do not adjudicate or duplicate other tribunals that assess compliance with New Zealand law.

We are assisted by a liaison group.  Meeting once a year, New Zealand's liaison group has representatives from:

  • Ministry of Justice
  • Ministry for the Environment
  • Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade
  • Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment
  • New Zealand Council of Trade Unions
  • Business New Zealand
  • Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union
  • New Zealand Business Council for Sustainable Development.

Countries that uphold the OECD guidelines

Each country must have a national contact point.  They are organised differently, and usually seek active support from other groups such as the business community, employee groups, relevant government and non-government organisations.

See the list of member countries 

See the 'Guidelines' page on the OECD website


Raising an issue about a multi-national enterprise

Contact us if you want to raise an issue about a multi-national business that is not following the OECD guidelines.

Read more…

New Zealand's annual reports to the OECD

Annual reports to the OECD and recent minutes from the liaison group.

Read more…