Social responsibility European Commission backs ISO 26000

Issue 34 – December 2011

Guidance on social responsibility ISO 26000:2010 is one of the three documents recommended by the European Commission (EC) on guidance for European enterprises to fulfil their commitment to social responsibility. The recommendation comes in a recently published communication from the EC to governing bodies of the European Union (EU) outlining a renewed strategy for corporate social responsibility (CSR) in the EU from 2011 to 2014.

The EC intends to monitor the commitments made by European enterprises with more than 1000 employees to take account of internationally recognised CSR principles and guidelines and ISO 26000 in their operation. At the same time, the EC invites all large European enterprises to make a commitment by 2014 to take account of at least one of three sets of principles and guidelines when developing their approach to CSR: ISO 26000, the United Nations Global Compact, or the Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises developed by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

The motivation for boosting CSR in Europe according to the EC is that, 'The economic crisis and its social consequences have to some extent damaged consumer confidence and levels of trust in business. They have focused public attention on the social and ethical performance of enterprises. By renewing efforts to promote CSR now, the Commission aims to create conditions favourable to sustainable growth, responsible business behaviour, and durable employment generation in the medium and long term.'

ISO 26000 was launched on 1 November 2010 and has become one of ISO's best known and important Standards. It provides guidance on social responsibility (SR) – the SR designation underlining ISO's intention that it should be as useful for public sector and non-governmental organisations as it is for business corporations. According to the Standard, the perception and reality of an organisation's performance on social responsibility can influence, among other things:

  • competitive advantage
  • reputation
  • ability to attract and retain workers or members, customers, clients, or users
  • maintenance of employees' morale, commitment, and productivity
  • view of investors, owners, donors, sponsors, and the financial community
  • relationship with companies, governments, the media, suppliers, peers, customers, and the community in which it operates.

ISO 26000 is a voluntary guidance Standard that is not to be used for certification, unlike ISO 9001:2008 (quality management) and ISO 14001:2004 (environmental management), which can be used for certification.

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