Possible ISO Standards for Social Responsibility

ISO’s Committee on consumer policy (COPOLCO) is carrying out a feasibility study on standards for corporate social responsibility and has launched an online forum to gather your views.

The forum, hosted by the Canadian Office of Consumer Affairs, has been set up for worldwide discussion of the possible role of standards in defining the elements of corporate social responsibility. The forum has been designed to increase awareness and promote constructive discussion of new and existing corporate social responsibility initiatives, as well as, their relevance to existing or potential standards projects.

An Environics Millennium survey of 25,000 people in 23 developed and developing countries found high and universal public expectation for large companies to act in a reasonable way. According to the survey, respondents felt large companies should:

  • (79%) be held “completely responsible” for protecting the health and safety of workers
  • (73%) protect the environment
  • (72%) avoid child labor

Examples of corporate social responsibility include investment in community outreach, employee relations, creation and maintenance of employment, environmental stewardship, and financial performance.

“A growing number of companies have recognized the business benefits of corporate social responsibility policies and practices. Companies which take these issues seriously not only achieve benefits to society; they can also enhance their reputation, improve their competitiveness, and strengthen their risk management,” said Dr. Ringstedt, chairman of COPOLCO..

Created as a result of a recommendation from a COPOLCO meeting earlier this year, the forum operates as a list-serve. E-mail postings are sent to every member of the forum, and there is no cost to participate. To join the online forum, contact the forum facilitator, Dr. Kernaghan Webb, senior legal policy advisor and chief of research at the Canadian Office of Consumer Affairs, at: <webb.kernaghan@ic.gc.ca>.

One of COPOLCO’s working groups dealing with “Consumer protection in the global market” will study the matter further and deliver its recommendations to COPOLCO by June 2002. At the initiation of the Trinidad and Tobago Bureau of Standards, ISO/COPOLCO is organizing a workshop on corporate social responsibility, which will take place on 10 June 2002, in Port-of-Spain.