Future ISO 26000 standard on social responsibility

The future International Standard ISO 26000, Guidance on social responsibility, has reached an important phase in its development with its publication as a Draft International Standard (DIS).

A five-month balloting period (from 14 September 2009 to 14 February 2010) has now begun during which the national member bodies of ISO will be able to vote and comment on the text. Participating liaison organizations can also comment. The comments will be discussed at the next meeting of the ISO Working Group on Social Responsibility (ISO/WG SR), which is developing ISO 26000, in May 2010. If the DIS vote is successful, the document, with eventual modifications, will then be circulated to the ISO members as a Final Draft International Standard (FDIS). If that vote is positive, ISO 26000 will then be published as an International Standard in late 2010.

ISO 26000 will provide harmonized, globally relevant guidance based on international consensus among expert representatives of the main stakeholder groups and so encourage the implementation of best practice in social responsibility worldwide.

The introduction to the draft standard includes the following key messages, stating that ISO 26000:

  • Provides guidance on the underlying principles of social responsibility, the core subjects and issues pertaining to social responsibility and on ways to integrate socially responsible behaviour into existing organizational strategies, systems, practices and processes
  • Is intended to be useful to all types of organizations in the private, public and non-profit sectors, whether large or small, and whether operating in developed or developing countries
  • Is not a management system standard. It is not intended or appropriate for certification purposes or regulatory or contractual use.
  • Is intended for use by those beginning to address social responsibility, as well as those more experienced with its implementation.

Ninety-one countries and 42 organizations with liaison status are participating in the ISO/WG SR under the joint leadership of the ISO members for Brazil (ABNT) and Sweden (SIS). Six main stakeholder groups are represented: industry; government; labour; consumers: nongovernmental organizations; service, support, research and others, as well as a geographical and gender-based balance of participants.

The guidance in ISO 26000 draws on best practice developed by existing public and private sector SR initiatives. It is consistent with and complements relevant declarations and conventions by the United Nations and its constituents, notably the International Labour Organization (ILO), with whom ISO has established a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to ensure consistency with ILO labour standards. ISO has also signed MoUs with the United Nations Global Compact Office (UNGCO) and with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) to enhance their cooperation on the development of ISO 26000.

For more information on ISO 26000 and the ISO Working Group on Social Responsibility, see the dedicated Web site: www.iso.org/sr. This Web site includes documents giving the background to ISO’s SR initiative, documents and press releases on the progress of the work and how it is being carried out, the membership and structure of the WG SR, how to participate in the development of ISO 26000, a newsletter, development timeframe, FAQs, contacts and other information. Many are available in several languages.

Working documents including the DIS can be accessed at: www.iso.org/wgsr