"Increasing respect for OECD guidelines"
Breakfast presentation by professor Hans Petter Graver on the OECD guidelines, a comprehensive set of recommendations on responsible business conduct.
The seminar was co-hosted by NBCC, the Norwegian Consulate General in Rio de Janeiro, OAB-RJ and the the Commisão de Direito Marítimo Portuário e do Mar (CDMPM) and took place on January 27, 2015 in Rio de Janeiro.
Since 2010, Mr. Hans Petter Graver has been the head of the Norwegian National Contact Point (NCP) for the OECD Guidelines, the most comprehensive set of government-backed recommendations on responsible business conduct in existence today.
Governments adhering to the OECD Guidelines aim to encourage and maximize the positive impact multinational enterprises can make to sustainable development and enduring social progress. The guidelines cover all major areas of business ethics, including information disclosure, human rights, employment and industrial relations, environment, bribery and corruption, consumer interests, science and technology, competition, and taxation.
Mr. Graver is also Dean of the University of Oslo, Department of Private Law, since 2008, and was appointed professor of law in 1993. He is the author of more than 100 publications including books, volumes, and various published academic articles in law, ranging from human rights, ethics, evidence theory, EU-community law, competition law, and public and administrative law.
"What we experience, is an increasing interest and understanding of the guidelines and why we need them. Companies are seeking information and guidance on what implications these guidelines have on their business and activities", says Mr. Graver. During the presentation on January 27, he shared experiences and talked about the activities of the Norwegian NCP with the audience.
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In 2013, Norway, Brazil and United Kingdom decided to join forces, and today the three countries are working together to promote the OECD Guidelines.
Brazil has been using the annual meetings with the Norwegian and British contact points to spread information and invite representatives from Brazilian industry to take a more active part in the work that is being done. On January 26, an international workshop on the OECD Guidelines took place at BNDES in Rio de Janeiro. Details on the promotion and implementation, mediation on claims and the functioning and procedures of the Brazilian NCP were outlined.
The national contact points are not judicial bodies, but the guidelines are the only government-backed international instrument on responsible business conduct. The NCP shall contribute to resolving conflicts of alleged violations of the OECD Guidelines, and to raise awareness about them.
This year, the NCPs in Brazil, Norway and United Kingdom are focusing on the supply chain. The second half of the meetings was dedicated to the textile and garment sector. Last year, the finance sector was put under scrutiny by the NCPs, and the first year, focus was on the energy and mining sector.
"It is a priority to us to make sure that the NCPs operate in a similar way and offer the same conditions, no matter where, and this is why we establish cooperation with other countries. This is an opportunity to discuss topics of interest, share experiences and make sure that countries with more resources share and guide countries in the process of building up their local NCP. This is an important forum for information sharing", Mr. Graver says.
Mr. Graver hit the headlines in Norway in 2013 when he went public with concerns that the management of Norway´s pension fund was not in a position to present its human rights due diligence, with respect to an investment in South Korean steelmaker Posco.
The NCP recommendations´ impact through the financial world has been significant. OECD and the UN have also made it clear that they expect investors to follow the OECD guidelines. According to Financial Times, 16 of the UK´s largest pension funds have now joined forces ensure that they follow the responsible investment guidelines.
NCP does not have any complaints against Norwegian enterprises with business activites in Brazil. The Norwegian NCP has invited 12 major Norwegian companies, some of which are present in Brazil, to take part in a forum for discussions where the aim is to develop internal control systems to make sure that the companies´ operations are in line with the OECD Guidelines.
Corruption is an obvious challenge to international enterprises, and different interpretations of local laws is also known to be creating headaches.
"The interest has been significant, also among Norwegian companies established in Brazil. The challenge is to find a way to handle local challenges, to handle local authorities, that might operate in a different manner than they do back home, operate responsibly in within the frames of a different legal system and a different business culture", Mr. Graver says.
By Runa Hestmann, NBCC journalist
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