The new initiatives cover issues ranging from labour rights and transparency to anti-corruption

The new initiatives cover issues ranging from labour rights and transparency to anti-corruption

The US Department of State has outlined a raft of new initiatives aimed at promoting responsible business conduct by American companies operating abroad, covering issues from labour rights and supply chain transparency to anti-corruption.

Outlined in its first national action plan for Responsible Business Conduct (RBC), the government places particular importance on emphasising and accentuating the positive contributions businesses can make to economic, environmental and social progress; and recognising and avoiding possible adverse impacts of business conduct, and addressing them when they occur.

"The United States is committed to promoting human rights and leading the global fight against corruption," says John Kerry, Secretary of State. "Corruption enables the abuse of human rights, erodes democratic institutions, fuels organised crime and terrorism, and contributes to economic inequality. For companies investing overseas, corruption is a significant market access barrier that impedes business and economic growth.

"To encourage these efforts, the US is pleased to launch its first-ever national action plan on Responsible Business Conduct. We undertook this process to enhance coordination within our government, push for higher standards and a more level playing field globally, and strengthen public-private coordination to help US companies attain their responsible conduct goals in a variety of environments around the world."

The plan highlights new initiatives that build on what it says is an already strong foundation, and outlines how the government, in cooperation with business and other stakeholders, will strengthen efforts to promote high standards.

Of the new actions, one initiative will see the launch of a Global Anti-Corruption Consortium (GACC) to support international efforts to expose corruption, raise public awareness, and facilitate action by government, law enforcement, and multilateral organisations. GACC will expand the quality and scope of civil society investigations and reporting by mentoring investigative journalists and facilitating collaboration among anti-corruption civil society actors. Its aim is to improve society's ability to pursue action by government and international bodies to combat corruption.

Additional funding will also be put in place for the State Department's research on 'Strengthening Protections Against Trafficking in Persons in Federal and Corporate Supply Chains.' The investment will focus on developing additional sector-specific tools and the maintenance of online tools over the next five years. These will help contractors and corporations analyse, prevent and address human trafficking risks in their global supply chains. Additional funding will also go into research on forced labour in specific industries' global supply chains and an ILO-led Global Business Network on Forced Labor.

The government will also establish a formal mechanism for facilitating coordination among agencies engaged in relevant multi-stakeholder initiatives, in order to establish common approaches and expectations, share relevant experiences and good practices, and explore synergies.

"The US government will continue to encourage and model good practices by leveraging its purchasing power, which totals more than $450bn for goods and services each year, including nearly $25bn on services performed overseas," the report states. "Through this influence, the government aims to accelerate the pace at which RBC practices are developed, adopted, and sustained globally by improving awareness of best practices related to human rights among the tens of thousands of companies with which it does business each year, and encouraging contractors to exercise due diligence and take steps where existing practices can be strengthened."

Click here to view the full report.