The Common Approaches are a set of recommendations for addressing environmental and social aspects of officially supported export credit, and applies to ECAs based in OECD countries.
The OECD working party on export credits and credit guarantees (the ECG) drew up the original Common Approaches in 2001, although the recommendations have been altered over the years.
The problem with the Common Approaches
In 1998, ECAs based in OECD countries, under pressure from international NGOs, made a statement of intent to develop environmental and sustainable development standards for export credit support.
In 1999, they agreed to exchange environmental information for larger projects, but continued to refuse to meet in more than an ad hoc manner with NGOs on these issues. Following further pressure and contributions from NGOs, the ECG drafted a statement on Common Approaches in late 2001. However the US refused to join a consensus of accepting the statement, so the agreement remained purely voluntary. Most OECD ECAs do claim to have applied the 2001 Common Approaches standards to projects they supported from December 2001.
In December 2003, further negotiations achieved a consensus based on a number of vague standards to be “benchmarked” by member ECAs, resulting in approval of a formal OECD Recommendation on Common Approaches on Environment and Officially Supported Export Credits. This made the recommendations no longer voluntary for OECD members.
The 2012 Common Approaches
In June 2012, the Common Approaches were once again revised. They now include text on human rights, instructing members to ‘encourage protection and respect for human rights, particularly in situations where the potential impacts from projects or existing operations pose risks to human rights.'
See details from the OECD about Category A and Category B projects (meaning those with high and medium potential environmental impacts, based on the Recommendations on Common Approaches).