Skip to main content Skip to navigation
Australian Government - Australian Charities and
                    Not-For-Profit Taskforce

Commentary of the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises

These commentaries have been prepared by the Investment Committee in enlarged session to provide information on and explanation of the text of the Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises and of the Council Decision on the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. They are not part of the Declaration on International Investment and Multinational Enterprises or of the Council Decision on the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises.


Commentary on General Policies

The General Policies chapter of the Guidelines is the first to contain specific recommendations to enterprises. As such it is important for setting the tone and establishing common fundamental principles for the specific recommendations in subsequent chapters.

Enterprises are encouraged to co‑operate with governments in the development and implementation of policies and laws. Considering the views of other stakeholders in society, which includes the local community as well as business interests, can enrich this process. It is also recognised that governments should be transparent in their dealings with enterprises, and consult with business on these same issues. Enterprises should be viewed as partners with government in the development and use of both voluntary and regulatory approaches (of which the Guidelines are one element) to policies affecting them.

There should not be any contradiction between the activity of multinational enterprises (MNEs) and sustainable development, and the Guidelines are meant to foster complementarities in this regard. Indeed, links among economic, social, and environmental progress are a key means for furthering the goal of sustainable development. 

Chapter IV elaborates on the general human rights recommendation in paragraph A.2.

The Guidelines also acknowledge and encourage the contribution that MNEs can make to local capacity building as a result of their activities in local communities. Similarly, the recommendation on human capital formation is an explicit and forward‑looking recognition of the contribution to individual human development that MNEs can offer their employees, and encompasses not only hiring practices, but training and other employee development as well. Human capital formation also incorporates the notion of non‑discrimination in hiring practices as well as promotion practices, life‑long learning and other on‑the‑job training.

The Guidelines recommend that, in general, enterprises avoid making efforts to secure exemptions not contemplated in the statutory or regulatory framework related to human rights, environmental, health, safety, labour, taxation and financial incentives among other issues, without infringing on an enterprise's right to seek changes in the statutory or regulatory framework. The words 'or accepting' also draw attention to the role of the State in offering these exemptions. While this sort of provision has been traditionally directed at governments, it is also of direct relevance to MNEs. Importantly, however, there are instances where specific exemptions from laws or other policies can be consistent with these laws for legitimate public policy reasons. The environment and competition policy chapters provide examples.

The Guidelines recommend that enterprises apply good corporate governance practices drawn from the OECD Principles of Corporate Governance. The Principles call for the protection and facilitation of the exercise of shareholder rights, including the equitable treatment of shareholders. Enterprise should recognise the rights of stakeholders established by law or through mutual agreements and encourage active co‑operation with stakeholders in creating wealth, jobs, and the sustainability of financially sound enterprises.

The Principles call on the board of the parent entity to ensure the strategic guidance of the enterprise, the effective monitoring of management and to be accountable to the enterprise and to the shareholders, while taking into account the interests of stakeholders. In undertaking these responsibilities, the board needs to ensure the integrity of the enterprise's accounting and financial reporting systems, including independent audit, appropriate control systems, in particular, risk management, and financial and operational control, and compliance with the law and relevant standards.

The Principles extend to enterprise groups, although boards of subsidiary enterprises might have obligations under the law of their jurisdiction of incorporation. Compliance and control systems should extend where possible to these subsidiaries. Furthermore, the board's monitoring of governance includes continuous review of internal structures to ensure clear lines of management accountability throughout the group.

State‑owned multinational enterprises are subject to the same recommendations as privately‑owned enterprises, but public scrutiny is often magnified when a State is the final owner. The OECD Guidelines on Corporate Governance of State‑Owned Enterprises are a useful and specifically tailored guide for these enterprises and the recommendations they offer could significantly improve governance.

Although primary responsibility for improving the legal and institutional regulatory framework lies with governments, there is a strong business case for enterprises to implement good corporate governance.

An increasing network of non‑governmental self‑regulatory instruments and actions address aspects of corporate behaviour and the relationships between business and society. Interesting developments in this regard are being undertaken in the financial sector. Enterprises recognise that their activities often have social and environmental implications. The institution of self‑regulatory practices and management systems by enterprises sensitive to reaching these goals — thereby contributing to sustainable development — is an illustration of this. In turn, developing such practices can further constructive relationships between enterprises and the societies in which they operate.

Following from effective self‑regulatory practices, as a matter of course, enterprises are expected to promote employee awareness of company policies. Safeguards to protect bona fide 'whistle‑blowing' activities are also recommended, including protection of employees who, in the absence of timely remedial action or in the face of reasonable risk of negative employment action, report practices that contravene the law to the competent public authorities. While of particular relevance to anti‑bribery and environmental initiatives, such protection is also relevant to other recommendations in the Guidelines.

For the purposes of the Guidelines, due diligence is understood as the process through which enterprises can identify, prevent, mitigate and account for how they address their actual and potential adverse impacts as an integral part of business decision‑making and risk management systems. Due diligence can be included within broader enterprise risk management systems, provided that it goes beyond simply identifying and managing material risks to the enterprise itself, to include the risks of adverse impacts related to matters covered by the Guidelines. Potential impacts are to be addressed through prevention or mitigation, while actual impacts are to be addressed through remediation. The Guidelines concern those adverse impacts that are either caused or contributed to by the enterprise, or are directly linked to their operations, products or services by a business relationship, as described in paragraphs A.11 and A.12. Due diligence can help enterprises avoid the risk of such adverse impacts. For the purposes of this recommendation, 'contributing to' an adverse impact should be interpreted as a substantial contribution, meaning an activity that causes, facilitates or incentivises another entity to cause an adverse impact and does not include minor or trivial contributions. The term 'business relationship'  includes relationships with business partners, entities in the supply chain and any other non‑State or State entities directly linked to its business operations, products or services. The recommendation in paragraph A.10 applies to those matters covered by the Guidelines that are related to adverse impacts. It does not apply to the chapters on Science and Technology, Competition and Taxation.

The nature and extent of due diligence, such as the specific steps to be taken, appropriate to a particular situation will be affected by factors such as the size of the enterprise, context of its operations, the specific recommendations in the Guidelines, and the severity of its adverse impacts. Specific recommendations for human rights due diligence are provided in Chapter IV.

Where enterprises have large numbers of suppliers, they are encouraged to identify general areas where the risk of adverse impacts is most significant and, based on this risk assessment, prioritise suppliers for due diligence.

To avoid causing or contributing to adverse impacts on matters covered by the Guidelines through their own activities includes their activities in the supply chain. Relationships in the supply chain take a variety of forms including, for example, franchising, licensing or subcontracting. Entities in the supply chain are often multinational enterprises themselves and, by virtue of this fact, those operating in or from the countries adhering to the Declaration are covered by the Guidelines.

In the context of its supply chain, if the enterprise identifies a risk of causing an adverse impact, then it should take the necessary steps to cease or prevent that impact.

If the enterprise identifies a risk of contributing to an adverse impact, then it should take the necessary steps to cease or prevent its contribution and use its leverage to mitigate any remaining impacts to the greatest extent possible. Leverage is considered to exist where the enterprise has the ability to effect change in the wrongful practices of the entity that causes the harm.

Meeting the expectation in paragraph A.12 would entail an enterprise, acting alone or in co‑operation with other entities, as appropriate, to use its leverage to influence the entity causing the adverse impact to prevent or mitigate that impact.

The Guidelines recognise that there are practical limitations on the ability of enterprises to effect change in the behaviour of their suppliers. These are related to product characteristics, the number of suppliers, the structure and complexity of the supply chain, the market position of the enterprise vis‑à‑vis its suppliers or other entities in the supply chain. However, enterprises can also influence suppliers through contractual arrangements such as management contracts, pre‑qualification requirements for potential suppliers, voting trusts, and licence or franchise agreements. Other factors relevant to determining the appropriate response to the identified risks include the severity and probability of adverse impacts and how crucial that supplier is to the enterprise.

Appropriate responses with regard to the business relationship may include continuation of the relationship with a supplier throughout the course of risk mitigation efforts; temporary suspension of the relationship while pursuing ongoing risk mitigation; or, as a last resort, disengagement with the supplier either after failed attempts at mitigation, or where the enterprise deems mitigation not feasible, or because of the severity of the adverse impact. The enterprise should also take into account potential social and economic adverse impacts related to the decision to disengage.

Enterprises may also engage with suppliers and other entities in the supply chain to improve their performance, in co‑operation with other stakeholders, including through personnel training and other forms of capacity building, and to support the integration of principles of responsible business conduct compatible with the Guidelines into their business practices. Where suppliers have multiple customers and are potentially exposed to conflicting requirements imposed by different buyers, enterprises are encouraged, with due regard to anti‑competitive concerns, to participate in industry‑wide collaborative efforts with other enterprises with which they share common suppliers to coordinate supply chain policies and risk management strategies, including through information‑sharing.

Enterprises are also encouraged to participate in private or multi‑stakeholder initiatives and social dialogue on responsible supply chain management, such as those undertaken as part of the proactive agenda pursuant to the Decision of the OECD Council on the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises and the attached Procedural Guidance.

Stakeholder engagement involves interactive processes of engagement with relevant stakeholders, through, for example, meetings, hearings or consultation proceedings. Effective stakeholder engagement is characterised by two‑way communication and depends on the good faith of the participants on both sides. This engagement can be particularly helpful in the planning and decision‑making concerning projects or other activities involving, for example, the intensive use of land or water, which could significantly affect local communities.

Paragraph B.1 acknowledges an important emerging issue. It does not create new standards, nor does it presume the development of new standards. It recognises that enterprises have interests which will be affected and that their participation along with other stakeholders in discussion of the issues involved can contribute to their ability and that of others to understand the issues and make a positive contribution. It recognises that the issues may have a number of dimensions and emphasises that co‑operation should be pursued through appropriate fora. It is without prejudice to positions held by governments in the area of electronic commerce at the World Trade Organisation (WTO). It is not intended to disregard other important public policy interests which may relate to the use of the internet which would need to be taken into account. Finally, as is the case with the Guidelines in general, it is not intended to create conflicting requirements for enterprises consistent with paragraphs 2 and 8 of the Concepts and Principles Chapter of the Guidelines.

Finally, it is important to note that self‑regulation and other initiatives in a similar vein, including the Guidelines, should not unlawfully restrict competition, nor should they be considered a substitute for effective law and regulation by governments. It is understood that MNEs should avoid potential trade or investment distorting effects of codes and self‑regulatory practices when they are being developed.

Commentary on Disclosure

The purpose of this chapter is to encourage improved understanding of the operations of multinational enterprises. Clear and complete information on enterprises is important to a variety of users ranging from shareholders and the financial community to other constituencies such as workers, local communities, special interest groups, governments and society at large. To improve public understanding of enterprises and their interaction with society and the environment, enterprises should be transparent in their operations and responsive to the public's increasingly sophisticated demands for information.

The information highlighted in this chapter addresses disclosure in two areas. The first set of disclosure recommendations is identical to disclosure items outlined in the OECD Principles of Corporate Governance. Their related annotations provide further guidance and the recommendations in the Guidelines should be construed in relation to them. The first set of disclosure recommendations may be supplemented by a second set of disclosure recommendations which enterprises are encouraged to follow. The disclosure recommendations focus mainly on publicly traded enterprises. To the extent that they are deemed applicable in light of the nature, size and location of enterprises, they should also be a useful tool to improve corporate governance in non‑traded enterprises; for example, privately held or State‑owned enterprises.

Disclosure recommendations are not expected to place unreasonable administrative or cost burdens on enterprises. Nor are enterprises expected to disclose information that may endanger their competitive position unless disclosure is necessary to fully inform the investment decision and to avoid misleading the investor. In order to determine what information should be disclosed at a minimum, the Guidelines use the concept of materiality. Material information can be defined as information whose omission or misstatement could influence the economic decisions taken by users of information.

The Guidelines also generally note that information should be prepared and disclosed in accordance with high quality standards of accounting and financial and non‑financial disclosure. This significantly improves the ability of investors to monitor the enterprise by providing increased reliability and comparability of reporting, and improved insight into its performance. The annual independent audit recommended by the Guidelines should contribute to an improved control and compliance by the enterprise.

Disclosure is addressed in two areas. The first set of disclosure recommendations calls for timely and accurate disclosure on all material matters regarding the corporation, including the financial situation, performance, ownership and governance of the company. Companies are also expected to disclose sufficient information on the remuneration of board members and key executives (either individually or in the aggregate) for investors to properly assess the costs and benefits of remuneration plans and the contribution of incentive schemes, such as stock option schemes, to performance. Related party transactions and material foreseeable risk factors are additional relevant information that should be disclosed, as well as material issues regarding workers and other stakeholders.

The Guidelines also encourage a second set of disclosure or communication practices in areas where reporting standards are still evolving such as, for example, social, environmental and risk reporting. This is particularly the case with greenhouse gas emissions, as the scope of their monitoring is expanding to cover direct and indirect, current and future, corporate and product emissions; biodiversity is another example. Many enterprises provide information on a broader set of topics than financial performance and consider disclosure of such information a method by which they can demonstrate a commitment to socially acceptable practices. In some cases, this second type of disclosure — or communication with the public and with other parties directly affected by the enterprise's activities — may pertain to entities that extend beyond those covered in the enterprise's financial accounts. For example, it may also cover information on the activities of subcontractors and suppliers or of joint venture partners. This is particularly appropriate to monitor the transfer of environmentally harmful activities to partners.

Many enterprises have adopted measures designed to help them comply with the law and standards of business conduct, and to enhance the transparency of their operations. A growing number of firms have issued voluntary codes of corporate conduct, which are expressions of commitments to ethical values in such areas as environment, human rights, labour standards, consumer protection, or taxation. Specialised management systems have been or are being developed and continue to evolve with the aim of helping them respect these commitments — these involve information systems, operating procedures and training requirements. Enterprises are cooperating with non‑government organisations (NGOs) and intergovernmental organisations in developing reporting standards that enhance enterprises' ability to communicate how their activities influence sustainable development outcomes (for example, the Global Reporting Initiative).

Enterprises are encouraged to provide easy and economical access to published information and to consider making use of information technologies to meet this goal. Information that is made available to users in home markets should also be available to all interested users. Enterprises may take special steps to make information available to communities that do not have access to printed media (for example, poorer communities that are directly affected by the enterprise's activities).

Commentary on Human Rights

This chapter opens with a chapeau that sets out the framework for the specific recommendations concerning enterprises' respect for human rights. It draws upon the United Nations Framework for Business and Human Rights 'Protect, Respect and Remedy' and is in line with the Guiding Principles for its Implementation.

The chapeau and the first paragraph recognise that States have the duty to protect human rights, and that enterprises, regardless of their size, sector, operational context, ownership and structure, should respect human rights wherever they operate. Respect for human rights is the global standard of expected conduct for enterprises independently of States' abilities and/or willingness to fulfil their human rights obligations, and does not diminish those obligations.

A State's failure either to enforce relevant domestic laws, or to implement international human rights obligations or the fact that it may act contrary to such laws or international obligations does not diminish the expectation that enterprises respect human rights. In countries where domestic laws and regulations conflict with internationally recognised human rights, enterprises should seek ways to honour them to the fullest extent which does not place them in violation of domestic law, consistent with paragraph 2 of the Chapter on Concepts and Principles.

In all cases and irrespective of the country or specific context of enterprises' operations, reference should be made at a minimum to the internationally recognised human rights expressed in the International Bill of Human Rights, consisting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the main instruments through which it has been codified: the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and to the principles concerning fundamental rights set out in the 1998 International Labour Organisation Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work.

Enterprises can have an impact on virtually the entire spectrum of internationally recognised human rights. In practice, some human rights may be at greater risk than others in particular industries or contexts, and therefore will be the focus of heightened attention. However, situations may change, so all rights should be the subject of periodic review.Depending on circumstances, enterprises may need to consider additional standards. For instance, enterprises should respect the human rights of individuals belonging to specific groups or populations that require particular attention, where they may have adverse human rights impacts on them. In this connection, United Nations instruments have elaborated further on the rights of indigenous peoples; persons belonging to national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities; women; children; persons with disabilities; and migrant workers and their families. Moreover, in situations of armed conflict enterprises should respect the standards of international humanitarian law, which can help enterprises avoid the risks of causing or contributing to adverse impacts when operating in such difficult environments.

In paragraph 1, addressing actual and potential adverse human rights impacts consists of taking adequate measures for their identification, prevention, where possible, and mitigation of potential human rights impacts, remediation of actual impacts, and accounting for how the adverse human rights impacts are addressed. The term 'infringing' refers to adverse impacts that an enterprise may have on the human rights of individuals.

Paragraph 2 recommends that enterprises avoid causing or contributing to adverse human rights impacts through their own activities and address such impacts when they occur. 'Activities' can include both actions and omissions. Where an enterprise causes or may cause an adverse human rights impact, it should take the necessary steps to cease or prevent the impact. Where an enterprise contributes or may contribute to such an impact, it should take the necessary steps to cease or prevent its contribution and use its leverage to mitigate any remaining impact to the greatest extent possible. Leverage is considered to exist where the enterprise has the ability to effect change in the practices of an entity that cause adverse human rights impacts.

Paragraph 3 addresses more complex situations where an enterprise has not contributed to an adverse human rights impact, but that impact is nevertheless directly linked to its operations, products or services by its business relationship with another entity. Paragraph 3 is not intended to shift responsibility from the entity causing an adverse human rights impact to the enterprise with which it has a business relationship. Meeting the expectation in paragraph 3 would entail an enterprise, acting alone or in co‑operation with other entities, as appropriate, to use its leverage to influence the entity causing the adverse human rights impact to prevent or mitigate that impact. 'Business relationships' include relationships with business partners, entities in its supply chain, and any other non‑State or State entity directly linked to its business operations, products or services. Among the factors that will enter into the determination of the appropriate action in such situations are the enterprise's leverage over the entity concerned, how crucial the relationship is to the enterprise, the severity of the impact, and whether terminating the relationship with the entity itself would have adverse human rights impacts.

Paragraph 4 recommends that enterprises express their commitment to respect human rights through a statement of policy that: i) is approved at the most senior level of the enterprise; ii) is informed by relevant internal and/or external expertise; iii) stipulates the enterprise's human rights expectations of personnel, business partners and other parties directly linked to its operations, products or services; iv) is publicly available and communicated internally and externally to all personnel, business partners and other relevant parties; v) is reflected in operational policies and procedures necessary to embed it throughout the enterprise.

Paragraph 5 recommends that enterprises carry out human rights due diligence. The process entails assessing actual and potential human rights impacts, integrating and acting upon the findings, tracking responses as well as communicating how impacts are addressed. Human rights due diligence can be included within broader enterprise risk management systems provided that it goes beyond simply identifying and managing material risks to the enterprise itself to include the risks to rights‑holders. It is an on‑going exercise, recognising that human rights risks may change over time as the enterprise's operations and operating context evolve. Complementary guidance on due diligence, including in relation to supply chains, and appropriate responses to risks arising in supply chains are provided under paragraphs A.10 to A.12 of the Chapter on General Policies and their Commentaries.

When enterprises identify through their human rights due diligence process or other means that they have caused or contributed to an adverse impact, the Guidelines recommend that enterprises have processes in place to enable remediation. Some situations require co‑operation with judicial or State‑based non‑judicial mechanisms. In others, operational‑level grievance mechanisms for those potentially impacted by enterprises' activities can be an effective means of providing for such processes when they meet the core criteria of: legitimacy, accessibility, predictability, equitability, compatibility with the Guidelinesand transparency, and are based on dialogue and engagement with a view to seeking agreed solutions. Such mechanisms can be administered by an enterprise alone or in collaboration with other stakeholders and can be a source of continuous learning. Operational‑level grievance mechanisms should not be used to undermine the role of trade unions in addressing labour‑related disputes, nor should such mechanisms preclude access to judicial or non‑judicial grievance mechanisms, including the National Contact Points under the Guidelines.

Commentary on Employment and Industrial Relations

This chapter opens with a chapeau that includes a reference to 'applicable' law and regulations, which is meant to acknowledge the fact that multinational enterprises, while operating within the jurisdiction of particular countries, may be subject to national and international levels of regulation of employment and industrial relations matters. The terms 'prevailing labour relations' and 'employment practices' are sufficiently broad to permit a variety of interpretations in light of different national circumstances — for example, different bargaining options provided for workers under national laws and regulations.

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) is the competent body to set and deal with international labour standards, and to promote fundamental rights at work as recognised in its 1998 Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work. The Guidelines, as a non‑binding instrument, have a role to play in promoting observance of these standards and principles among multinational enterprises. The provisions of the Guidelines chapter echo relevant provisions of the 1998 Declaration, as well as the 1977 ILO Tripartite Declaration of Principles concerning Multinational Enterprises and Social Policy, last revised in 2006 (the ILO MNE Declaration). The ILO MNE Declaration sets out principles in the fields of employment, training, working conditions, and industrial relations, while the OECD Guidelines cover all major aspects of corporate behaviour. The OECD Guidelines and the ILO MNE Declaration refer to the behaviour expected from enterprises and are intended to parallel and not conflict with each other. The ILO MNE Declaration can therefore be of use in understanding the Guidelines to the extent that it is of a greater degree of elaboration. However, the responsibilities for the follow‑up procedures under the ILO MNE Declaration and the Guidelines are institutionally separate.

The terminology used in Chapter V is consistent with that used in the ILO MNE Declaration. The use of the terms 'workers employed by the multinational enterprise' and 'workers in their employment' is intended to have the same meaning as in the ILO MNE Declaration. These terms refer to workers who are 'in an employment relationship with the multinational enterprise'. Enterprises wishing to understand the scope of their responsibility under Chapter V will find useful guidance for determining the existence of an employment relationship in the context of the Guidelines in the non‑exhaustive list of indicators set forth in ILO Recommendation 198 of 2006, paragraphs 13 (a) and (b). In addition, it is recognised that working arrangements change and develop over time and that enterprises are expected to structure their relationships with workers so as to avoid supporting, encouraging or participating in disguised employment practices. A disguised employment relationship occurs when an employer treats an individual as other than an employee in a manner that hides his or her true legal status.

These recommendations do not interfere with true civil and commercial relationships, but rather seek to ensure that individuals in an employment relationship have the protection that is due to them in the context of the Guidelines. It is recognised that in the absence of an employment relationship, enterprises are nevertheless expected to act in accordance with the risk‑based due diligence and supply chain recommendations in paragraphs A.10 to A.13 of Chapter II on General Policies.

Paragraph 1 of this chapter is designed to echo all four fundamental principles and rights at work which are contained in the ILO's 1998 Declaration, namely the freedom of association and right to collective bargaining, the effective abolition of child labour, the elimination of all forms of forced or compulsory labour, and non‑discrimination in employment and occupation. These principles and rights have been developed in the form of specific rights and obligations in ILO Conventions recognised as fundamental.

Paragraph 1c) recommends that multinational enterprises contribute to the effective abolition of child labour in the sense of the ILO 1998 Declaration and ILO Convention 182 concerning the worst forms of child labour. Long‑standing ILO instruments on child labour are Convention 138 and Recommendation 146 (both adopted in 1973) concerning minimum ages for employment. Through their labour management practices, their creation of high‑quality, well‑paid jobs and their contribution to economic growth,  multinational enterprises can play a positive role in helping to address the root causes of poverty in general and of child labour in particular. It is important to acknowledge and encourage the role of multinational enterprises in contributing to the search for a lasting solution to the problem of child labour. In this regard, raising the standards of education of children living in host countries is especially noteworthy.

Paragraph 1d) recommends that enterprises contribute to the elimination of all forms of forced and compulsory labour, another principle derived from the 1998 ILO Declaration. The reference to this core labour right is based on the ILO Conventions 29 of 1930 and 105 of 1957. Convention 29 requests that governments 'suppress the use of forced or compulsory labour in all its forms within the shortest possible period', while Convention 105 requests of them to 'suppress and not to make use of any form of forced or compulsory labour' for certain enumerated purposes (for example, as a means of political coercion or labour discipline), and 'to take effective measures to secure [its] immediate and complete abolition'. At the same time, it is understood that the ILO is the competent body to deal with the difficult issue of prison labour, in particular when it comes to the hiring‑out of prisoners to (or their placing at the disposal of) private individuals, companies or associations.

The reference to the principle of non‑discrimination with respect to employment and occupation in paragraph 1e is considered to apply to such terms and conditions as hiring, job assignment, discharge, pay and benefits, promotion, transfer or relocation, termination, training and retirement. The list of non‑permissible grounds for discrimination which is taken from ILO Convention 111 of 1958, the Maternity Protection Convention 183 of 2000, Employment (Disabled Persons) Convention 159 of 1983, the Older Workers Recommendation 162 of 1980 and the HIV and AIDS at Work Recommendation 200 of 2010, considers that any distinction, exclusion or preference on these grounds is in violation of the Conventions, Recommendations and Codes. The term 'other status' for the purposes of the Guidelines refers to trade union activity and personal characteristics such as age, disability, pregnancy, marital status, sexual orientation, or HIV status. Consistent with the provisions in paragraph 1e, enterprises are expected to promote equal opportunities for women and men with special emphasis on equal criteria for selection, remuneration, and promotion, and equal application of those criteria, and prevent discrimination or dismissals on the grounds of marriage, pregnancy or parenthood.

In paragraph 2c) of this chapter, information provided by companies to their workers and their representatives is expected to provide a 'true and fair view' of performance. It relates to the following: the structure of the enterprise, its economic and financial situation and prospects, employment trends, and expected substantial changes in operations, taking into account legitimate requirements of business confidentiality. Considerations of business confidentiality may mean that information on certain points may not be provided, or may not be provided without safeguards.

The reference to consultative forms of worker participation in paragraph 3 of the Chapter is taken from ILO Recommendation 94 of 1952 concerning Consultation and Co‑operation between Employers and Workers at the Level of the Undertaking. It also conforms to a provision contained in the ILO MNE Declaration. Such consultative arrangements should not substitute for workers' right to bargain over terms and conditions of employment. A recommendation on consultative arrangements with respect to working arrangements is also part of paragraph 8.

In paragraph 4, employment and industrial relations standards are understood to include compensation and working‑time arrangements. The reference to occupational health and safety implies that multinational enterprises are expected to follow prevailing regulatory standards and industry norms to minimise the risk of accidents and injury to health arising out of, linked with, or occurring in, the course of employment. This encourages enterprises to work to raise the level of performance with respect to occupational health and safety in all parts of their operation even where this may not be formally required by existing regulations in countries in which they operate. It also encourages enterprises to respect workers' ability to remove themselves from a work situation when there is reasonable justification to believe that it presents an imminent and serious risk to health or safety. Reflecting their importance and complementarities among related recommendations, health and safety concerns are echoed elsewhere in the Guidelines, most notably in chapters on Consumer Interests and the Environment. The ILO Recommendation No. 194 of 2002 provides an indicative list of occupational diseases as well as codes of practice and guides which can be taken into account by enterprises for implementing this recommendation of the Guidelines.

The recommendation in paragraph 5 of the chapter encourages MNEs to recruit an adequate workforce share locally, including managerial personnel, and to provide training to them. Language in this paragraph on training and skill levels complements the text in paragraph A.4 of the General Policies chapter on encouraging human capital formation. The reference to local workers complements the text encouraging local capacity building in paragraph A.3 of the General Policies chapter. In accordance with the ILO Human Resources Development Recommendation 195 of 2004, enterprises are also encouraged to invest, to the greatest extent practicable, in training and lifelong learning while ensuring equal opportunities to training for women and other vulnerable groups, such as youth, low‑skilled people, people with disabilities, migrants, older workers, and indigenous peoples.

Paragraph 6 recommends that enterprises provide reasonable notice to the representatives of workers and relevant government authorities, of changes in their operations which would have major effects upon the livelihood of their workers, in particular the closure of an entity involving collective layoffs or dismissals. As stated therein, the purpose of this provision is to afford an opportunity for co‑operation to mitigate the effects of such changes. This is an important principle that is widely reflected in the industrial relations laws and practices of adhering countries, although the approaches taken to ensuring an opportunity for meaningful co‑operation are not identical in all adhering countries. The paragraph also notes that it would be appropriate if, in light of specific circumstances, management were able to give such notice prior to the final decision. Indeed, notice prior to the final decision is a feature of industrial relations laws and practices in a number of adhering countries. However, it is not the only means to ensure an opportunity for meaningful co‑operation to mitigate the effects of such decisions, and the laws and practices of other adhering countries provide for other means such as defined periods during which consultations must be undertaken before decisions may be implemented.

Commentary on the Environment

The text of the Environment Chapter broadly reflects the principles and objectives contained in the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, in Agenda 21 (within the Rio Declaration). It also takes into account the (Aarhus) Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision‑making, and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters and reflects standards contained in such instruments as the ISO Standard on Environmental Management Systems.

Sound environmental management is an important part of sustainable development, and is increasingly being seen as both a business responsibility and a business opportunity. Multinational enterprises have a role to play in both respects. Managers of these enterprises should therefore give appropriate attention to environmental issues within their business strategies. Improving environmental performance requires a commitment to a systematic approach and to continual improvement of the system. An environmental management system provides the internal framework necessary to control an enterprise's environmental impacts and to integrate environmental considerations into business operations. Having such a system in place should help to assure shareholders, employees and the community that the enterprise is actively working to protect the environment from the impacts of its activities.

In addition to improving environmental performance, instituting an environmental management system can provide economic benefits to companies through reduced operating and insurance costs, improved energy and resource conservation, reduced compliance and liability charges, improved access to capital and skills, improved customer satisfaction, and improved community and public relations.

In the context of these Guidelines, 'sound environmental management' should be interpreted in its broadest sense, embodying activities aimed at controlling both direct and indirect environmental impacts of enterprise activities over the long‑term, and involving both pollution control and resource management elements.

In most enterprises, an internal control system is needed to manage the enterprise's activities. The environmental part of this system may include such elements as targets for improved performance and regular monitoring of progress towards these targets.

Information about the activities of enterprises and about their relationships with sub‑contractors and their suppliers, and associated environmental impacts is an important vehicle for building confidence with the public. This vehicle is most effective when information is provided in a transparent manner and when it encourages active consultation with stakeholders such as employees, customers, suppliers, contractors, local communities and with the public‑at‑large so as to promote a climate of long‑term trust and understanding on environmental issues of mutual interest. Reporting and communication are particularly appropriate where scarce or at risk environmental assets are at stake either in a regional, national or international context; reporting standards such as the Global Reporting Initiative provide useful references.

In providing accurate information on their products, enterprises have several options such as voluntary labelling or certification schemes. In using these instruments enterprises should take due account of their social and economic effects on developing countries and of existing internationally recognised standards.

Normal business activity can involve the ex ante assessment of the potential environmental impacts associated with the enterprise's activities. Enterprises often carry out appropriate environmental impact assessments, even if they are not required by law. Environmental assessments made by the enterprise may contain a broad and forward‑looking view of the potential impacts of an enterprise's activities and of activities of sub‑contractors and suppliers, addressing relevant impacts and examining alternatives and mitigation measures to avoid or redress adverse impacts. The Guidelines also recognise that multinational enterprises have certain responsibilities in other parts of the product life cycle.

Several instruments already adopted by countries adhering to the Guidelines, including Principle 15 of the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, enunciate a 'precautionary approach'. None of these instruments is explicitly addressed to enterprises, although enterprise contributions are implicit in all of them.

The basic premise of the Guidelines is that enterprises should act as soon as possible, and in a proactive way, to avoid, for instance, serious or irreversible environmental damages resulting from their activities. However, the fact that the Guidelines are addressed to enterprises means that no existing instrument is completely adequate for expressing this recommendation. The Guidelines therefore draw upon, but do not completely mirror, any existing instrument.

The Guidelines are not intended to reinterpret any existing instruments or to create new commitments or precedents on the part of governments — they are intended only to recommend how the precautionary approach should be implemented at the level of enterprises. Given the early stage of this process, it is recognised that some flexibility is needed in its application, based on the specific context in which it is carried out. It is also recognised that governments determine the basic framework in this field, and have the responsibility to consult periodically with stakeholders on the most appropriate ways forward.

The Guidelines also encourage enterprises to work to raise the level of environmental performance in all parts of their operations, even where this may not be formally required by existing practice in the countries in which they operate. In this regard, enterprises should take due account of their social and economic effects on developing countries.

For example, multinational enterprises often have access to existing and innovative technologies or operating procedures which could, if applied, help raise environmental performance overall. Multinational enterprises are frequently regarded as leaders in their respective fields, so the potential for a 'demonstration effect' on other enterprises should not be overlooked. Ensuring that the environment of the countries in which multinational enterprises operate also benefit from available and innovative technologies and practices, is an important way of building support for international investment activities more generally.

Enterprises have an important role to play in the training and education of their employees with regard to environmental matters. They are encouraged to discharge this responsibility in as broad a manner as possible, especially in areas directly related to human health and safety.

Commentary on Combating Bribery, Bribe Solicitation and Extortion

Bribery and corruption are damaging to democratic institutions and the governance of corporations. They discourage investment and distort international competitive conditions. In particular, the diversion of funds through corrupt practices undermines attempts by citizens to achieve higher levels of economic, social and environmental welfare, and it impedes efforts to reduce poverty. Enterprises have an important role to play in combating these practices.

Propriety, integrity and transparency in both the public and private domains are key concepts in the fight against bribery, bribe solicitation and extortion. The business community, non‑governmental organisations, governments and inter‑governmental organisations have all co‑operated to strengthen public support for anticorruption measures and to enhance transparency and public awareness of the problems of corruption and bribery. The adoption of appropriate corporate governance practices is also an essential element in fostering a culture of ethics within enterprises.

The Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions (the Anti‑Bribery Convention) entered into force on 15 February 1999. The Anti‑Bribery Convention, along with the 2009 Recommendation for Further Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions (the 2009 Anti‑Bribery Recommendation), the 2009 Recommendation on Tax Measures for Further Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions, and the 2006 Recommendation on Bribery and Officially Supported Export Credits, are the core OECD instruments which target the offering side of the bribery transaction. They aim to eliminate the 'supply' of bribes to foreign public officials, with each country taking responsibility for the activities of its enterprises and what happens within its own jurisdiction. A programme of rigorous and systematic monitoring of countries' implementation of the Anti‑Bribery Convention has been established to promote the full implementation of these instruments.

The 2009 Anti‑Bribery Recommendation recommends in particular that governments encourage their enterprises to develop and adopt adequate internal controls, ethics and compliance programmes or measures for the purpose of preventing and detecting foreign bribery, taking into account the Good Practice Guidance on Internal Controls, Ethics and Compliance, included as Annex II to the 2009 Anti‑Bribery Recommendation. This Good Practice Guidance is addressed to enterprises as well as business organisations and professional associations, and highlights good practices for ensuring the effectiveness of their internal controls, ethics and compliance programmes or measures to prevent and detect foreign bribery.

Private sector and civil society initiatives also help enterprises to design and implement effective anti‑bribery policies.

The United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC), which entered into force on 14 December 2005, sets out a broad range of standards, measures and rules to fight corruption. Under the UNCAC, States Parties are required to prohibit their officials from receiving bribes and their enterprises from bribing domestic public officials, as well as foreign public officials and officials of public international organisations, and to consider disallowing private to private bribery. The UNCAC and the Anti‑Bribery Convention are mutually supporting and complementary.

To address the demand side of bribery, good governance practices are important elements to prevent enterprises from being asked to pay bribes. Enterprises can support collective action initiatives on resisting bribe solicitation and extortion. Both home and host governments should assist enterprises confronted with solicitation of bribes and with extortion. The Good Practice Guidance on Specific Articles of the Convention in Annex I of the 2009 Anti‑Bribery Recommendation states that the Anti‑Bribery Convention should be implemented in such a way that it does not provide a defence or exception where the foreign public official solicits a bribe. Furthermore, the UNCAC requires the criminalisation of bribe solicitation by domestic public officials.

Commentary on Consumer Interests

The chapter on consumer interests of the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises draws on the work of the OECD Committee on Consumer Policy and the Committee on Financial Markets, as well as the work of other international organisations, including the International Chamber of Commerce, the International Organization for Standardization and the United Nations (that is, the UN Guidelines on Consumer Policy, as expanded in 1999).

The chapter recognises that consumer satisfaction and related interests constitute a fundamental basis for the successful operation of enterprises. It also recognises that consumer markets for goods and services have undergone major transformation over time. Regulatory reform, more open global markets, the development of new technologies and the growth in consumer services have been key agents of change, providing consumers with greater choice and the other benefits which derive from more open competition. At the same time, the pace of change and increased complexity of many markets have generally made it more difficult for consumers to compare and assess goods and services. Moreover, consumer demographics have also changed over time. Children are becoming increasingly significant forces in the market, as are the growing number of older adults. While consumers are better educated overall, many still lack the arithmetic and literacy skills that are required in today's more complex, information‑intensive marketplace. Further, many consumers are increasingly interested in knowing the position and activities of enterprises on a broad range of economic, social and environmental issues, and in taking these into account when choosing goods and services.

The chapeau calls on enterprises to apply fair business, marketing and advertising practices and to ensure the quality and reliability of the products that they provide. These principles, it is noted, apply to both goods and services.

Paragraph 1 underscores the importance for enterprises to adhere to required health and safety standards and the importance for them to provide consumers with adequate health and safety information on their products.

Paragraph 2 concerns information disclosure. It calls for enterprises to provide information which is sufficient for consumers to make informed decisions. This would include information on the financial risks associated with products, where relevant. Furthermore, in some instances enterprises are legally required to provide information in a manner that enables consumers to make direct comparisons of goods and services (for example, unit pricing). In the absence of direct legislation, enterprises are encouraged to present information, when dealing with consumers, in a way that facilitates comparisons of goods and services and enables consumers to easily determine what the total cost of a product will be. It should be noted that what is considered to be 'sufficient' can change over time and enterprises should be responsive to these changes. Any product and environmental claims that enterprises make should be based on adequate evidence and, as applicable, proper tests. Given consumers' growing interest in environmental issues and sustainable consumption, information should be provided, as appropriate, on the environmental attributes of products. This could include information on the energy efficiency and the degree of recyclability of products and, in the case of food products, information on agricultural practices.

Business conduct is increasingly considered by consumers when making their purchasing decisions. Enterprises are therefore encouraged to make information available on initiatives they have taken to integrate social and environmental concerns into their business operations and to otherwise support sustainable consumption. Chapter III of the Guidelines on Disclosure is relevant in this regard. Enterprises are there encouraged to communicate value statements or statements of business conduct to the public, including information on the social, ethical and environmental policies of the enterprise and other codes of conduct to which the company subscribes. Enterprises are encouraged to make this information available in plain language and in a format that is appealing to consumers. Growth in the number of enterprises reporting in these areas and targeting information to consumers would be welcome.

Paragraph 3 reflects language that is used in the 2007 Council Recommendation on Consumer Dispute Resolution and Redress. The Recommendation establishes a framework for developing effective approaches to address consumer complaints, including a series of actions that industry can take in this respect. It is noted that the mechanisms that many enterprises have established to resolve consumer disputes have helped increase consumer confidence and consumer satisfaction. These mechanisms can provide more practicable solutions to complaints than legal actions, which can be expensive, difficult and time consuming for all the parties involved. For these non‑judicial mechanisms to be effective, however, consumers need to be made aware of their existence and would benefit from guidance on how to file complaints, especially when claims involve cross‑border or multi‑dimensional transactions.

Paragraph 4 concerns deceptive, misleading, fraudulent and other unfair commercial practices. Such practices can distort markets, at the expense of both consumers and responsible enterprises and should be avoided.

Paragraph 5 concerns consumer education, which has taken on greater importance with the growing complexity of many markets and products. Governments, consumer organisations and many enterprises have recognised that this is a shared responsibility and that they can play important roles in this regard. The difficulties that consumers have experienced in evaluating complex products in financial and other areas have underscored the importance for stakeholders to work together to promote education aimed at improving consumer decision‑making.

Paragraph 6 concerns personal data. The increasing collection and use of personal data by enterprises, fuelled in part by the Internet and technological advances, has highlighted the importance of protecting personal data against consumer privacy violations, including security breaches.

Paragraph 7 underscores the importance of enterprises to work with public authorities to help prevent and combat deceptive marketing practices more effectively. Co‑operation is also called for to diminish or prevent threats to public health and safety and to the environment. This includes threats associated with the disposal of goods, as well as their consumption and use. This reflects recognition of the importance of considering the entire life‑cycle of products.

Paragraph 8 calls on enterprises to take the situations of vulnerable and disadvantaged consumers into account when they market goods and services. Disadvantaged or vulnerable consumers refer to particular consumers or categories of consumers, who because of personal characteristics or circumstances (like age, mental or physical capacity, education, income, language or remote location) may meet particular difficulties in operating in today's information‑intensive, globalised markets. The paragraph also highlights the growing importance of mobile and other forms of e‑commerce in global markets. The benefits that such commerce provides are significant and growing. Governments have spent considerable time examining ways to ensure that consumers are afforded transparent and effective protection that is not less in the case of e‑commerce than the level of protection afforded in more traditional forms of commerce.

Commentary on Science and Technology

In a knowledge‑based and globalised economy where national borders matter less, even for small or domestically oriented enterprises, the ability to access and utilise technology and know‑how is essential for improving enterprise performance. Such access is also important for the realisation of the economy‑wide effects of technological progress, including productivity growth and job creation, within the context of sustainable development. Multinational enterprises are the main conduit of technology transfer across borders. They contribute to the national innovative capacity of their host countries by generating, diffusing, and even enabling the use of new technologies by domestic enterprises and institutions. The R&D activities of MNEs, when well connected to the national innovation system, can help enhance the economic and social progress in their host countries. In turn, the development of a dynamic innovation system in the host country expands commercial opportunities for MNEs.

The chapter thus aims to promote, within the limits of economic feasibility, competitiveness concerns and other considerations, the diffusion by multinational enterprises of the fruits of research and development activities among the countries where they operate, contributing thereby to the innovative capacities of host countries. In this regard, fostering technology diffusion can include the commercialisation of products which imbed new technologies, licensing of process innovations, hiring and training of S&T personnel and development of R&D co‑operative ventures. When selling or licensing technologies, not only should the terms and conditions negotiated be reasonable, but MNEs may want to consider the long‑term developmental, environmental and other impacts of technologies for the home and host country. In their activities, multinational enterprises can establish and improve the innovative capacity of their international subsidiaries and subcontractors. In addition, MNEs can call attention to the importance of local scientific and technological infrastructure, both physical and institutional. In this regard, MNEs can usefully contribute to the formulation by host country governments of policy frameworks conducive to the development of dynamic innovation systems.

Commentary on Competition

These recommendations emphasise the importance of competition laws and regulations to the efficient operation of both domestic and international markets and reaffirm the importance of compliance with those laws and regulations by domestic and multinational enterprises. They also seek to ensure that all enterprises are aware of developments concerning the scope, remedies and sanctions of competition laws and the extent of co‑operation among competition authorities. The term 'competition' law is used to refer to laws, including both 'antitrust' and 'antimonopoly' laws, that variously prohibit: a) anti‑competitive agreements; b) the abuse of market power or of dominance; c) the acquisition of market power or dominance by means other than efficient performance; or d) the substantial lessening of competition or the significant impeding of effective competition through mergers or acquisitions.

In general, competition laws and policies prohibit: a) hard core cartels; b) other anti‑competitive agreements; c) anti‑competitive conduct that exploits or extends market dominance or market power; and d) anti‑competitive mergers and acquisitions. Under the 1998 Recommendation of the OECD Council Concerning Effective Action Against Hard Core Cartels, C(98)35/FINAL, the anticompetitive agreements referred to in sub a) constitute hard core cartels, but the Recommendation incorporates differences in member countries' laws, including differences in the laws' exemptions or provisions allowing for an exception or authorisation for activity that might otherwise be prohibited. The recommendations in these Guidelines do not suggest that enterprises should forego availing themselves of such legally available exemptions or provisions. The categories sub b) and c) are more general because the effects of other kinds of agreements and of unilateral conduct are more ambiguous, and there is less consensus on what should be considered anti‑competitive.

The goal of competition policy is to contribute to overall welfare and economic growth by promoting market conditions in which the nature, quality, and price of goods and services are determined by competitive market forces. In addition to benefiting consumers and a jurisdiction's economy as a whole, such a competitive environment rewards enterprises that respond efficiently to consumer demand. Enterprises can contribute to this process by providing information and advice when governments are considering laws and policies that might reduce efficiency or otherwise reduce the competitiveness of markets.

Enterprises should be aware that competition laws continue to be enacted, and that it is increasingly common for those laws to prohibit anti‑competitive activities that occur abroad if they have a harmful impact on domestic consumers. Moreover, cross‑border trade and investment makes it more likely that anti‑competitive conduct taking place in one jurisdiction will have harmful effects in other jurisdictions. Enterprises should therefore take into account both the law of the country in which they are operating and the laws of all countries in which the effects of their conduct are likely to be felt.

Finally, enterprises should recognise that competition authorities are engaging in more and deeper co‑operation in investigating and challenging anti‑competitive activity. See generally: Recommendation of the Council Concerning Co‑operation between Member Countries on Anticompetitive Practices Affecting International Trade, C(95)130/FINAL; Recommendation of the Council on Merger Review, C(2005)34. When the competition authorities of various jurisdictions are reviewing the same conduct, enterprises' facilitation of co‑operation among the authorities promotes consistent and sound decision‑making and competitive remedies while also permitting cost savings for governments and enterprises.

Commentary on Taxation

Corporate citizenship in the area of taxation implies that enterprises should comply with both the letter and the spirit of the tax laws and regulations in all countries in which they operate, co‑operate with authorities and make information that is relevant or required by law available to them. An enterprise complies with the spirit of the tax laws and regulations if it takes reasonable steps to determine the intention of the legislature and interprets those tax rules consistent with that intention in light of the statutory language and relevant, contemporaneous legislative history. Transactions should not be structured in a way that will have tax results that are inconsistent with the underlying economic consequences of the transaction unless there exists specific legislation designed to give that result. In this case, the enterprise should reasonably believe that the transaction is structured in a way that gives a tax result for the enterprise which is not contrary to the intentions of the legislature.

Tax compliance also entails co‑operation with tax authorities and provision of the information they require to ensure an effective and equitable application of the tax laws. Such co‑operation should include responding in a timely and complete manner to requests for information made by a competent authority pursuant to the provisions of a tax treaty or exchange of information agreement. However, this commitment to provide information is not without limitation. In particular, the Guidelines make a link between the information that should be provided and its relevance to the enforcement of applicable tax laws. This recognises the need to balance the burden on business in complying with applicable tax laws and the need for tax authorities to have the complete, timely and accurate information to enable them to enforce their tax laws.

Enterprises' commitments to co‑operation, transparency and tax compliance should be reflected in risk management systems, structures and policies. In the case of enterprises having a corporate legal form, corporate boards are in a position to oversee tax risk in a number of ways. For example, corporate boards should proactively develop appropriate tax policy principles, as well as establish internal tax control systems so that the actions of management are consistent with the views of the board with regard to tax risk. The board should be informed about all potentially material tax risks and responsibility should be assigned for performing internal tax control functions and reporting to the board. A comprehensive risk management strategy that includes tax will allow the enterprise to not only act as a good corporate citizen but also to effectively manage tax risk, which can serve to avoid major financial, regulatory and reputation risk for an enterprise.

A member of a multinational enterprise group in one country may have extensive economic relationships with members of the same multinational enterprise group in other countries. Such relationships may affect the tax liability of each of the parties. Accordingly, tax authorities may need information from outside their jurisdiction in order to be able to evaluate those relationships and determine the tax liability of the member of the MNE group in their jurisdiction. Again, the information to be provided is limited to that which is relevant to or required by law for the proposed evaluation of those economic relationships for the purpose of determining the correct tax liability of the member of the MNE group. MNEs should co‑operate in providing that information.

Transfer pricing is a particularly important issue for corporate citizenship and taxation. The dramatic increase in global trade and cross‑border direct investment (and the important role played in such trade and investment by multinational enterprises) means that transfer pricing is a significant determinant of the tax liabilities of members of a multinational enterprise group because it materially influences the division of the tax base between countries in which the multinational enterprise operates. The arm's length principle which is included in both the OECD Model Tax Convention and the UN Model Double Taxation Convention between Developed and Developing Countries, is the internationally accepted standard for adjusting the profits between associated enterprises. Application of the arm's length principle avoids inappropriate shifting of profits or losses and minimises risks of double taxation. Its proper application requires multinational enterprises to co‑operate with tax authorities and to furnish all information that is relevant or required by law regarding the selection of the transfer pricing method adopted for the international transactions undertaken by them and their related party. It is recognised that determining whether transfer pricing adequately reflects the arm's length standard (or principle) is often difficult both for multinational enterprises and for tax administrations and that its application is not an exact science.

The Committee on Fiscal Affairs of the OECD undertakes ongoing work to develop recommendations for ensuring that transfer pricing reflects the arm's length principle. Its work resulted in the publication in 1995 of the OECD Transfer Pricing Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises and Tax Administrations (OECD Transfer Pricing Guidelines) which was the subject of the Recommendation of the OECD Council on the Determination of Transfer Pricing between Associated Enterprises (members of an MNE group would normally fall within the definition of Associated Enterprises). The OECD Transfer Pricing Guidelines and that Council Recommendation are updated on an ongoing basis to reflect changes in the global economy and experiences of tax administrations and taxpayers dealing with transfer pricing. The arm's length principle as it applies to the attribution of profits of permanent establishments for the purposes of the determination of a host State's taxing rights under a tax treaty was the subject of an OECD Council Recommendation adopted in 2008.

The OECD Transfer Pricing Guidelines focus on the application of the arm's length principle to evaluate the transfer pricing of associated enterprises. The OECD Transfer Pricing Guidelines aim to help tax administrations (of both OECD member countries and non‑member countries) and multinational enterprises by indicating mutually satisfactory solutions to transfer pricing cases, thereby minimising conflict among tax administrations and between tax administrations and multinational enterprises and avoiding costly litigation. Multinational enterprises are encouraged to follow the guidance in the OECD Transfer Pricing Guidelines, as amended and supplemented, in order to ensure that their transfer prices reflect the arm's length principle.