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State Dept. Issues First National Action Plan on Responsible Business Conduct

The U.S. Department of State on 16 December 2016 released its first national action plan to promote responsible business conduct by U.S. companies operating abroad. This effort marks the first time the U.S. government has undertaken a whole-of-government process to focus, improve, and expand its effort to promote RBC.

According to the plan, RBC is a broad concept based on the idea that businesses can perform well while doing good and that governments should set and facilitate the conditions for RBC to take place. The concept places particular importance on two aspects of the business-society relationship: (i) emphasising and accentuating the positive contributions businesses can make to economic, environmental, and social progress; and (ii) recognising and avoiding possible adverse impacts of business conduct, as well as addressing them when they occur.  

The national action plan is designed to reinforce and strengthen the U.S. government’s role in advancing RBC through effective intra-governmental co-ordination and policymaking, promoting high standards globally, facilitating current and future RBC efforts through enhanced collaboration, and highlighting and supporting U.S. industry leadership. It presents the many ways in which the U.S. government, including in co-operation with business, labour, civil society, foreign governments and other stakeholders, already upholds its responsibilities and fosters an environment for responsible conduct by businesses operating overseas. The plan also highlights new initiatives that build on this strong foundation and outlines how the U.S. government, in co-operation with business and other stakeholders, will strengthen efforts to promote high standards.

The plan focuses on a broad range of issues, including human rights, the rights of indigenous peoples, labour rights, land tenure and property rights, anti-corruption and transparency. The U.S. government recognises that environmental issues are also integral to the plan and are affected by, and have an impact on, many of these areas. Therefore, environmental issues are addressed in the plan to the extent that they overlap with RBC.

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