The stakeholder engagement process supporting the Obama Administration’s plans to develop a National Action Plan on Responsible Business Conduct (NAP) is well underway. Two stakeholder meetings have already occurred in New York City and Berkeley, California. Two final meetings will take place shortly in Norman, Oklahoma on April 2, 2015, and in Washington, DC on April 16, 2015. With the stakeholder engagement process now half over, your company or organization should know what the goals of the NAP are, how these goals might affect your interests, and how to get involved during the remainder of the outreach process.

What Are the Goals of the NAP?

The primary aim of the NAP is “to promote and incentivize responsible business conduct, including with respect to transparency and anticorruption, consistent with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and the OECD Guidelines on Multinational Enterprises.”1 The NAP covers the following issues: human rights, labor rights, anti-corruption, trade and investment, land tenure and agriculture, and transparency. Through internal government deliberations and outside stakeholder engagement, the NAP is intended, among other things, to “help provide clear, consistent, and predictable expectations for U.S. firms in their global operations” and to “promote responsible investment and responsible business conduct.”2

How Might the NAP Affect the Interests of My Company or Organization?

The NAP very likely will result in a change in US policy on corporate social responsibility. The extent of any policy change is unclear at this stage but will likely depend, in part, on the results of the NAP’s stakeholder engagement process. According to the Obama Administration, the NAP may result in legislative recommendations and may be enforced by both legal and non-legal procedures, including those “managed through governmental, corporate, and multistakeholder processes that are designed to provide oversight and addresses situations where companies are alleged to have engaged in irresponsible conduct.”3 (For a prior discussion of Canada’s new corporate social responsibility policy with respect to its extractive industry, click here.)

It is thus important that companies and other stakeholders remain abreast of developments in the NAP and involved in its stakeholder engagement process.

How Can My Company or Organization Become Involved in the NAP’s Stakeholder Engagement Process?

There are two ways in which companies and other stakeholders can become involved in and possibly influence the results of the NAP: 1) by participating and presenting views in the remaining stakeholder meetings; and 2) by submitting written comments to the US government. The Obama Administration is currently seeking feedback from the following groups, among others: business associations and individual companies; labor unions; civil society organizations; academic experts; international organizations; and affected communities.

Those who participate in the stakeholder engagement meetings will have the opportunity to directly interact with the US government officials responsible for developing the NAP. In addition, companies and other stakeholders can submit written comments on the NAP directly to the White House. Numerous civil society and labor organizations have already sent written submissions during the first comment period ending on January 15, 2015. The next deadline for written submissions is April 24, 2015. Written comments may be submitted via email to nap-rbc@state.gov.