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The Status of the Guidelines in Australia

The OECD Guidelines for multinational enterprises are not legally binding. They are recommendations on responsible business conduct addressed by governments, including Australia, to MNEs. Importantly, while the Guidelines have been endorsed within the OECD international forum, they are not a substitute for, nor do they override, Australian law. They represent standards of behaviour supplemental to Australian law and, as such, do not create conflicting requirements.

The common aim of the governments adhering to the Guidelines is to encourage the positive contributions that multinational enterprises can make to economic, environmental and social progress.

Companies operating in Australia and Australian companies operating overseas are expected to act in accordance with the principles set out in the Guidelines and to perform to — at minimum — the standards they suggest.

The Guidelines can be seen as:

  • a useful aid to business in developing their own code of conduct (they are not aimed at replacing or preventing companies from developing their own codes);
  • complementary to other business, national and international initiatives on corporate responsibility, including domestic and international law in specific areas such as human rights and bribery;
  • providing an informal structure for resolving issues that may arise in relation to implementation of the Guidelines in specific instances.

The Australian Government is committed to promoting the use of the Guidelines and their effective and consistent implementation. Through business cooperation and support, the Guidelines can positively influence business conduct and, ultimately economic, environmental and social progress.