Social Responsibility

ISO has decided to launch the development of an International Standard providing guidelines for social responsibility (SR). The guidance standard will be published this year as ISO 26000. It will not include requirements and will thus not be a certification standard.

There is a range of different opinions as to the right approach to social responsibility, ranging from strict legislation at one end to complete freedom at the other. The ISO Working Group on Social Responsibility (WG SR) has said they are looking for a golden middle way that promotes respect and responsibility based on known reference documents without stifling creativity and development. Their aim is to encourage voluntary commitment to social responsibility and provide guidance on concepts, definitions, and methods of evaluation.

The need for organizations in both public and private sectors to behave in a socially responsible way is becoming a generalized requirement of society. That view is shared by the stakeholder groups that are participating in the WG SR: industry, government, labor, consumers, nongovernmental organizations and others, in addition to geographical and gender-based balance.

ISO 26000:2010 is intended to assist organizations in contributing to sustainable development. It is meant to encourage them to go beyond legal compliance, recognizing that compliance with law is a fundamental duty of any organization and an essential part of their social responsibility. It is intended to promote common understanding in the field of social responsibility, and to complement other instruments and initiatives for social responsibility, not to replace them.

ISO 26000:2010 provides guidance to all types of organizations, regardless of their size or location, on:

  • concepts, terms and definitions related to social responsibility;
  • background, trends and characteristics of social responsibility;
  • principles and practices relating to social responsibility;
  • core subjects and issues of social responsibility;
  • integrating, implementing, and promoting socially responsible behavior throughout the organization and, through its policies and practices, within its sphere of influence;
  • identifying and engaging with stakeholders; and
  • communicating commitments, performance, and other information related to social responsibility.

In applying ISO 26000:2010, it is advisable that an organization take into consideration societal, environmental, legal, cultural, political, and organizational diversity, as well as differences in economic conditions, while being consistent with international norms of behavior.

ISO 26000:2010 is not a management system standard. It is not intended or appropriate for certification purposes or regulatory or contractual use. Any offer to certify, or claims to be certified, to ISO 26000 would be a misrepresentation of the intent and purpose and a misuse of the guidance standard. Since it does not contain requirements, any such certification would not be a demonstration of conformity with ISO 26000:2010.

For more information on ISO 26000 and the ISO Working Group on Social Responsibility, see their dedicated web site.