CSR Hungary Summit Conference, Good brand, sustainable brand: OECD Guidelines for Responsible Business Conduct

The CSR Hungary Summit Conference was organized this May again, with the motto of „The good brand is the sustainable brand” by the CSR Hungary. Ms. Gabriella Tölgyes, CSR expert was the presenter on the side of the Ministry of Economic Development, who gave a comprehensive and detailed, but also very understandable presentation about the history of the OECD, the structure and the proper application of the Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises (hereinafter: Guidelines) as well as about the main changes of Guidelines from the recent past and the actual problems and questions of the topic.

As Ms. Gabriella Tölgyes highlighted, the elaboration of the Guidelines is grounded by significant economical alterations and structural processes. During the last 30 years, the international business environment went through fundamental, constructive challenging episodes. The reopening of the markets ensured new opportunities, which led to unexampled advancement, unfortunately hand in hand with negative externals: messy entanglements. Although the multinational companies have successfully contributed to the economic development, they have faced serious challenges in the field of adapting to a different environment and responsible business behaviour. There have been market participants who have already caused serious damage to the society through their irresponsible and unethical actions on the market, and gained an unfair competitive advantage, which distorted the economic power relations. In view of the situation, the OECD created the Guidelines, which provide market participants a comprehensive and widely accepted summary of the requirements of the ideal responsible business conduct to help them meet the requirements of the ESG. Although the main recipients of the recommendations are multinational companies, the Guidelines also provide guidance for all kind and size of responsible companies.

Nowadays the OECD Guidelines are considered the most comprehensive collection of recommendations for responsible business conduct supported by the concerned governments. The target of these Guidelines is to encourage and strengthen the positive impact made by the multinational companies on the vision of sustainable development. The Guidelines draw up expectations towards the multinational companies, which are operating or has headquarters in one of the participant countries. The recommended good practices are always based on voluntary commitment and in accordance with the legal environment.

Although the application of these Guidelines is voluntary, the setting up of the NCPs is a duty of the states. The main function of these NCPs is to promote the effective application of the Guidelines, to popularize them, to answer questions and to contribute to the solution of the complainant cases in the subject of the assumed contraventions of the Guidelines. If necessary, the Member States and their National Contact Points shall cooperate in all matters relating to the Guidelines and affecting their activities. The review of the Guidelines from 2011 took its time in 2023, and the OECD Ministerial Council Meeting accepted the final text in June 2023, thus it is now available for anyone who is interested. The new document tries to reflect on the expanding social, environmental and technological issues facing the society and businesses. The review covered the new name of the NCPs, the Guidelines were finally extended to the public sector after the private sector, so the PSR is officially published after the CSR. In the final text, the RBC recommendations were defined as goals instead of legal obligations, and the role and influence of governments in promoting and enforcing the Guidelines was also increased, emphasizing that it is the duty of politics to create the most appropriate environment. The text also contains direct references to the significant role of companies in managing environmental challenges (including climate change, biodiversity protection, and water management).