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Rules for the Global Economy: Synergies Between Voluntary and Binding Approaches

Kathryn Gordon

No 1999/3, OECD Working Papers on International Investment from OECD Publishing

Abstract: This paper explores the differences, similarities and synergies between voluntary and binding approaches to international rules. Voluntary efforts to ensure that firms adhere to appropriate standards of business conduct have been an important recent development in international business. These efforts have included the publication of codes of conduct describing the nature of a firm’s commitments in such areas as environment, labour, product safety and bribery as well as implementation of specialised management systems designed to help firms honour these commitments. Yet, some NGOs and labour unions question the credibility of these efforts and wonder whether initiatives that do not have the force of law can ever be effective. This paper notes that all approaches to the social control of business organisations – voluntary and legally binding -- have distinctive shortcomings. These include problems of: credibility arising from imperfect monitoring and enforcement; capture of the control ...

Date: 1999-11-01
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