Factory farmed cows

OECD Calls Upon Businesses to Uphold Animal Welfare Standards in its Updated Guidelines 

For the first time ever the international policy platform has included animal welfare it is RBC guidelines


Paris/Vienna, 8 June 2023 – Today, the OECD released its updated guidelines for Multinational Enterprises on Responsible Business Conduct (RBC) and for the first time the OECD has included animal welfare, calling on enterprises to respect international animal welfare standards.

FOUR PAWS, the global animal welfare organisation, stated that despite billions of animals being used in multiple industries, every year, previously animal welfare had wrongly not been viewed as a concern for RBC. The latest iteration of the guidelines, which were last updated in 2011, clearly sets out that upholding animal welfare is both a key requirement of due diligence and for RBC, concluding that it was a “hugely progressive step in the right direction for animal welfare globally.”

The text recognises that good animal welfare is predicated on animals experiencing “positive physical and mental states” in line with the five domains, which is the most up to date model of assessing animal welfare.

The guidelines now ask enterprises to respect international animal welfare standards and describes “good welfare” as “ensuring that the animal is healthy, comfortable, and well nourished, as well as providing a stimulating and safe environment, ensured humane handling, and subjected only to humane slaughter or killing.”

The update now allows civil society to file complaints relating to irresponsible animal welfare practices to National Contact Points (NCPs) and speak to businesses about their failure to ensure that animal welfare in their value chains is consistent with the standards of the World Organisation for Animal Health.

“This is a long-awaited success story for animal welfare. Its inclusion as a definition in the world’s leading RBC guidelines is long overdue and reflects the growing importance businesses, consumers and governments are placing on animal welfare. This is a natural step forward with more and more OECD states recognising animal sentience and the link between irresponsible multinational enterprises conduct on animals and its adverse impacts on animals, people, and the planet."

Sophie Aylmer, FOUR PAWS Head of Farm Animals & Nutrition Policy

“FOUR PAWS is delighted the spirit of the five domains has been maintained in the text as this is essential to meet high standards and future-proof the guidelines.

“FOUR PAWS welcomes that where companies do not meet at the very least the World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH) standards that animal welfare civil society will now be able to hold them to account through the national contact points.

“Finally, FOUR PAWS looks forward to the next round of updates that recognise that animal welfare issues go beyond environmental risks but also broader cover broader due diligence questions such as public health.”


OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises on Responsible Business Conduct (Guidelines) – full paper

Selected OCED text reads:

"enterprises should respect animal welfare standards that are generally consistent with the World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH) Terrestrial Code. An animal experiences good welfare if the animal is healthy, comfortable, well nourished, safe, is not suffering from unpleasant states such as pain, fear and distress, and is able to express behaviours that are important for its physical and mental state. Good animal welfare requires disease prevention and appropriate veterinary care, shelter, management and nutrition, a stimulating and safe environment, humane handling and humane slaughter or killing. In addition, enterprises should adhere to guidance for the transport of live animals developed by relevant international organisations."

OECD guidelines on responsible business conduct

OECD guidelines on responsible business conduct

For the first time ever, the Guidelines address corporate responsibility around animal welfare.

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FOUR PAWS is the global animal welfare organisation for animals under direct human influence, which reveals suffering, rescues animals in need and protects them. Founded in 1988 in Vienna by Heli Dungler and friends, the organisation advocates for a world where humans treat animals with respect, empathy and understanding. The sustainable campaigns and projects of FOUR PAWS focus on companion animals including stray dogs and cats, farm animals and wild animals – such as bears, big cats and orangutans – kept in inappropriate conditions as well as in disaster and conflict zones. With offices in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Kosovo, the Netherlands, Switzerland, South Africa, Thailand, Ukraine, the UK, the USA and Vietnam as well as sanctuaries for rescued animals in eleven countries, FOUR PAWS provides rapid help and long-term solutions. www.four-paws.org

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