A complaint has been made by a group of Italian NGOs to the National Contact Point of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), against the Italian energy company ENI, alleging that the major’s business plan is contrary to its’ target of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

The OECD Guidelines provide non-binding principles for responsible business conduct consistent with applicable laws and internationally recognised standards.

The group of Italian NGO’s allege that ENI’s business plan is in breach of the OECD Guidelines as it provides for:

  • An increase in emissions over the next three years;
  • A cut in future emissions that is not in line with the Paris Agreement; and
  • A number of highly controversial solutions aimed only at neutralising emissions and not at stabilising the climate system, such as the use of CO2 capture and storage.

As the National Contact Point is a non-judicial grievance mechanism, the NGOs requested ENI to enter mediation.

The complaint brought against ENI follows a similar line of argument to that which resulted in the landmark climate change litigation decision handed down by the District Court of The Hague on 26 May 2021 in Milieudefensie et al. v. Royal Dutch Shell PLC, where the Dutch court concluded that Royal Dutch Shell had breached their duty of care owed to Dutch residents. The District Court’s ruling appeared to create a precedent of corporate responsibility for businesses to comply with soft law principles, such as OECD Guidelines. 

Whatever the outcome, the complaint made against ENI should serve as a reminder to all corporates that climate change activists seem ready and willing to use all judicial and non-judicial grievance mechanisms available to them. No doubt more such actions will follow.