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Columbia FDI PerspectivesPerspectives on topical foreign direct investment
issuesEditor-in-Chief: Karl P. Sauvant ([log in to unmask])

Managing Editor: Riccardo Loschi ([log in to unmask])

*The Columbia FDI Perspectives are a forum for public debate. The views
expressed by the authors do not reflect the opinions of CCSI or our
partners and supporters.*

No. 317   November 1, 2021

*National Contact Points for responsible business conduct and access to

*Achievements and challenges after 20 years*


Nicolas Hachez and Allan Jorgensen*

Responsible business conduct (RBC) is a key driver of a fair, sustainable
and resilient global economy. The OECD recently showed
 that a RBC approach to the COVID-19 crisis would make the recovery faster,
greener, more inclusive, and help prevent future crises.

A central tenet of RBC is access to remedy: people, planet and society must
be able to seek and obtain redress for negative corporate impacts. Twenty
years ago, National Contact Points for RBC
<> (NCPs), the implementation bodies of
the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises
<> (Guidelines), became the
only grievance mechanisms built into an international RBC standard. In this
role, NCPs receive cases (“specific instances”) reporting alleged
non-observance of the Guidelines by companies and seek to facilitate
solutions through “good offices” (ranging from informal dialogue to
professional mediation) and/or recommendations. To date, 50 NCPs have
collectively handled over 575 cases
.[i] The main asset of NCPs is that, being a widely available and open
platform, it can cast a wide net on business impacts.[ii] This shows along
three dimensions.

·      *Where?* NCPs can receive cases involving companies operating “in or
from” their country, extending their geographical coverage. Additionally,
NCPs capture a large proportion of global economic activity: the
Guidelines’ adherents account for over 50% of world GDP and over 70% of
inward and outward FDI stocks. To date, 45% of the cases addressed by NCPs
involve non-adherent countries, totaling over 100 countries. This linkage
between FDI and NCP coverage invites further action in international
investment agreements, to leverage RBC standards and access to remedy via
NCPs. Recent agreements (e.g., the USMCA
explicitly refer to the Guidelines, giving NCPs an opportunity to address
investment-related impacts.

·      *Who?* NCP cases can be filed free of charge and without
representation by showing a legitimate interest. This has allowed a varied
mix of people, organizations and communities to seek remedy with NCPs.
Oftentimes, this is the only forum available for reasons of cost, distance
or jurisdiction. While historically NGOs and trade unions have been the
most active NCP-users, the number of cases brought by individuals has risen
in recent years. One reason is that, thanks to their openness and
availability, NCPs are often the only recourse available to persons
affected by the issues.

·      *Wh**at?* The Guidelines are the broadest RBC instrument available,
entitling NCPs to review issues across all their eleven chapters. Since
2011, most cases have involved human (e.g., protection of indigenous
peoples, children, health), labor (e.g., union busting, factory closures),
environmental (e.g., climate change, pollution), and consumer rights (e.g.,
false advertising). NCPs have also leveraged the Guidelines’ due diligence
<> provisions, which require
companies to identify and mitigate negative impacts that they may cause,
contribute to or to which they are directly linked through business
relationships. NCP cases have helped powerful enterprises address impacts
down their supply chains and institutional investors in their portfolios.
To ensure coherence around RBC expectations across governments, NCPs are
encouraged to report cases to relevant agencies, such as Export Credit
Agencies or trade missions. Recently, the Canadian NCP recommended
 that a company that had refused to engage in a case not be eligible for
trade support or diplomacy from the Canadian government. Attaching
consequences to NCP cases bolsters NCPs’ authority and encourage companies’
active participation in the process.

These features translate into impact. Since 2011, NCPs provided good
offices for 55% of the cases received, of which 42% concluded with
agreement; and in 47% of which, companies implemented policy changes to
prevent similar issues in the future. Yet, challenges such as lack of
visibility, barriers to access, lengthy proceedings, or lack of companies’
engagement, still limit that impact.[iii] Also, stakeholders expressed
concerns regarding diverging criteria applied by NCPs on whether to offer
mediation, resulting in varying degrees of accessibility across the
network. Likewise, the significant proportion of “unsolved” cases suggests
that NCPs could better leverage their mandate to foster positive outcomes.
Maximizing NCPs’ contribution to remedy requires policy action from
governments at several levels, including:

·      *Human resources*: NCPs should be adequately staffed to timely and
effectively handle cases.

·      *Institutional arrangements*: NCPs must inspire confidence and
project impartiality, by generalizing best practices, such as isolating
NCPs from potential conflicts of interest or including stakeholders in
their structure. Additionally, better access to senior leadership could
elevate their authority and leverage, to foster solutions.

·      *Access to expertise*: NCPs should be able to access networks of
experts (e.g., government colleagues, professional mediators) to best deal
with the incredibly diverse cases they encounter.

·      *Coordination*: because the Guidelines only provide high-level
procedural guidance on case handling, NCPs and governments should
coordinate to establish common interpretations of their mandate and key
procedural steps (e.g., conditions to accept cases).

To address these challenges and increase NCPs’ contribution to a fairer and
more sustainable globalization—especially in light of pressing challenges
such as climate change and the current pandemic—governments should invest
more resources and political capital in the NCP mechanism.


* Nicolas Hachez ([log in to unmask]) is Manager, National Contact
Point Coordination, OECD Centre for Responsible Business Conduct; Allan
Jorgensen ([log in to unmask]) is Head, OECD Centre for Responsible
Business Conduct. The authors wish to thank Marian Ingrams, Peter
Muchlinski and Lukas Siegenthaler for their helpful peer reviews.

[i] NCP cases database <>.

[ii] OECD, *National Contact Points for Responsible Business Conduct –
Providing Access to Remedy: 20 years and the road ahead* (Paris: OECD, 2020)

[iii] See the March 2020 Statement of the Working Party on Responsible
Business Conduct

*The material in this Perspective may be reprinted if accompanied by the
following acknowledgment: “Nocolas Hachez and Allan Jorgensen, ‘National
Contact Points for responsible business conduct and access to remedy:
Achievements and challenges after 20 years,’ Columbia FDI Perspectives No.
317, November 1, 2021. Reprinted with permission from the Columbia Center
on Sustainable **Investment (***
<>*).” A copy should kindly be sent to the
Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment at **[log in to unmask]*
<[log in to unmask]>*.*

For further information, including information regarding submission to the
*Perspectives*, please contact: Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment,
Riccardo Loschi, [log in to unmask]

The Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment (CCSI), a joint center of
Columbia Law School and the Earth Institute at Columbia University, is a
leading applied research center and forum dedicated to the study, practice
and discussion of sustainable international investment. Our mission is to
develop and disseminate practical approaches and solutions, as well as to
analyze topical policy-oriented issues, in order to maximize the impact of
international investment for sustainable development. The Center undertakes
its mission through interdisciplinary research, advisory projects,
multi-stakeholder dialogue, educational programs, and the development of
resources and tools. For more information, visit us at
** <>.

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*All previous FDI Perspectives are available at *

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