One year on ISO 26000 the worlds most widely accepted initiative on social responsibility

ISO 26000 cover

Issue 37 – April 2012

This article by Kristina Sandberg, Business Area Manager, Swedish Standards Institute, was first published in ISO Focus+ January 2012 and is summarised with permission from ISO.

Launched in November 2010, ISO 26000:2010, Guidance on social responsibility, has been adopted, or is planned for adoption, in at least 53 countries worldwide. In little more than a year, ISO 26000 has become one of the world's most important and widely accepted initiatives on social responsibility.

ISO 26000 is remarkable in many ways. For a start it was produced by the International Organization for Standardization's (ISO's) largest ever working group, comprising over 450 experts and 210 observers from 99 ISO members, and 42 international organisations.

In September and October 2011, almost a year after ISO 26000's publication, ISO surveyed its members to evaluate the global spread of ISO 26000, find out how the Standard is being used, and see what else ISO can do to support its further dissemination and use.

The survey was sent out to all 162 ISO members and correspondent members. The results showed that:

  • of the 66 responding members, roughly 80% said they have already adopted ISO 26000 as a national Standard or will do so soon

  • the Standard is available in at least 18 languages

  • in Europe, 25 out of 29 responding members said they have adopted ISO 26000 as a national Standard. Latin America has also seen rapid dissemination and it was encouraging to note strong interest in the Middle East, bearing in mind recent challenges in some parts of this region.

To conclude, the survey indicates an impressive dissemination of ISO 26000 in its first year. There is growing global interest in the Standard but, of course, there is still much more to be done. We should all encourage organisations to start working with social responsibility and thereby support sustainable development. As a new and popular Standard, ISO 26000 has a great role in driving change and huge potential for making the world a better place.

A unified and shared vision with ISO 26000

Pierre Mazeau, corporate social responsibility manager at EDF's (a French utilities company) sustainable development department, says of ISO 26000:

Since its publication on 1 November 2010, ISO 26000 has truly contributed to offering a unified and shared vision of the social responsibility concept at the international level.

The Standard provides guidelines for organisations to help them integrate social responsibility into their values and practices.

And today, the main benchmarks on the subject have sought convergence with ISO 26000. For example, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development guidelines, has added a new chapter on 'Human rights' in its 2011 revision, and expanded the 'Consumer interests' chapter accordingly.

Other important benchmarks such as the Global Reporting Initiative and the Global Compact have established linkage documents with ISO 26000. Finally, the European Commission recently revised its definition of corporate social responsibility (CSR), by opting for one closer to that of ISO 26000. The Commission confirmed the multidimensional nature of CSR, emphasising the core subjects of ISO 26000. It thus made ISO 26000 one of the three benchmarks recommended to European enterprises to help them implement social responsibility.

Basic facts on ISO 26000

ISO 26000 is a guidance Standard and not intended for certification purposes. It can be used by all kinds of organisations, whatever their size, structure, or private or public-sector status. That is why ISO speaks about 'social responsibility' rather than the more widespread term 'corporate social responsibility'.

ISO 26000:

  • comprises seven principles: accountability, transparency, ethical behaviour, respect for stakeholder interest, respect for the rule of law, respect for international norms of behaviour, and respect for human rights

  • has seven core subjects: organisational governance, human rights, labour practices, the environment, fair operating practices, consumer issues, and community involvement and development.

Summarised with permission from the International Organization for Standardization's ISO Focus+, January 2012.

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