ISO 26000 Standard - Social responsibility

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The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) is an organization that develops voluntary International Standards. Since 1947 they published more than 19500 International Standards. These standards give state of the art specifications for products, services and good practice. And they are covering almost all aspects of technology and business.

In September 2009 they released a draft standard named ISO 26000. The topic of this draft was to provide guidance on social responsibility for all types of organisations. Social responsibility in the draft is defined as: responsibly of an organisation for the impacts of its decisions and activities on society and the environment, through transparent and ethical behaviour. After an on going international and multi-stakeholder process, which included experts from 90 countries and 40 international organizations, they published in 2010 the complete standard.

According to ISO the standard: “helps clarify what social responsibility is, helps businesses and organizations translate principles into effective actions and shares best practices from around the world relating to social responsibility.”

The core subjects of social responsibility that are addressed in the ISO 26000 are:
- Organizational governance;
- Human rights;
- Labour practices;
- The environment;
- Fair operating practices;
- Consumer issues;
- Community involvement and development.

The table with subjects and all associated issues can be found here:

Mainly you can use ISO 26000 Standard for guidance in your organisation concerning social responsibility. Although it can be used as part of public policy activities it is not intended as a basis for legal proceedings. It would be a misrepresentation of the ISO 26000 to claim it is a certified standard.

But why was a standard needed for social responsibility? The main goal of social responsibility is to contribute to sustainable development. Nowadays a critical part of measuring the overall performance of an organization is to look at i.e. the impact on the environment and social equity of the organization. Organizations became aware of the benefits of socially responsible behaviour. It has influence on i.e. competitive advantages, the reputation of the organization and the relationship with companies, the media, customers and the community in which it operates. Being social responsible is needed in the long run to improve an organization performance and keep the world’s ecosystems healthy.

Habbitts, S (2010), The A-Z of corporate social responsibility, page 251 - 253, Wiley: United Kingdom, ISO 26000 - Social Responsibility,