While Standards for social sustainability and corporate social responsibility (CSR) are based on good practice, this can inhibit better practice that goes beyond the criteria set out. There are so many standards for the wide range of different aspects of sustainability, it is unclear if another standard is likely to make a difference.
ISO 26000 is a standard for social responsibility produced by the International Standards Organisation and was published in 2010. In What are standards for? The case of ISO 26000, The Guardian explains that standards only represent best practice at the time of their launch, but ISO 26000 is still proving influential.
The ISO 14001 on environmental management has been immensely influential, but social responsibility still represented a major departure for ISO when it was first suggested in 2002.
ISO 26000 is probably the most inclusive sustainability standard in terms of the issues it covers. ISO 26000 was developed, in a participative way, by a wide variety of different interests. The working group members were drawn from about 80 countries and international organisations such as Consumers International and the International Organisation of Employers. To ensure consistency, ISO has also entered special agreements with the ILO, Global Compact, GRI and OECD.
The issues covered by ISO 26000 range from environmental issues and the use of the precautionary principle, to organisational governance. In between, the standard directly addresses human and labour rights as well as corruption, fair competition, and consumer concerns.
One contentious issue is its non-certifiable nature. It is a guidance standard, meant only to embody good advice. Since companies like to have evidence of their good performance. As a result, there is continuing pressure to develop a certifiable version of the standard.
Another issue was how to make this standard applicable in your organisation. In our previous blog article on Moving forward with ISO 26000, we compiled some free tools for applying ISO 26000. Another way to apply ISO 26000 to your organisation is to implement a Stakeholder Engagement Management system. Find out how such a system can drive compliance with international management system standards and guidelines such as ISO 26000 IsoMetrix Alignment Matrix
ISO 26000 is being, and should be taken seriously. Whatever its shortcomings, it is a powerful statement of the moral and practical issues facing companies and other organisations. In developing countries, where there are numerous standards and initiatives, it will be particularly influential as companies seek to address their wider responsibilities, perhaps for the first time.
Benoit Froment is Director North America for Metrix Software Solutions. He is responsible for leading the IsoMetrix operations in the US and Canada, including Sales and Marketing, Implementation and Customer Support. He is also an IsoMetrix Subject Matter Expert in Social Sustainability.