What is ISO 26000?
ISO 26000 is an international standard that provides guidance and establishes the principles and guidelines of social responsibilities. Developed to aid organizations with both assessing and addressing social responsibilities such as customers and communities as well as environmental impacts of their processes. The standard offers thorough guidance and effective suggestions for organizations to operate in socially responsible ways, such as through implementation procedures to adopt the standard. You cannot become ISO 26000 certified, as this standard only offers guidance.
“ISO 26000:2010 provides guidance rather than requirements, so it cannot be certified to, unlike some other well-known ISO standards. Instead, it helps clarify what social responsibility is, helps businesses and organizations translate principles into effective actions and shares best practices relating to social responsibility, globally. It is aimed at all types of organizations regardless of their activity, size or location […] ISO 26000 was developed to respond to a growing world need for clear and harmonized best practice on how to ensure social equity, healthy ecosystems and good organizational governance, with the ultimate objective of contributing to sustainable development.” – ISO.org
What are the guidelines?
The guidelines of the ISO 26000 standard revolve around 7 central points highlighted below:
- Organizational governance;
- Human rights;
- Labour practices;
- Environmental responsibility;
- The fairness of organizational practices;
- Consumer and consumer protection issues;
- Evolving and developing communities.
These 7 points are then further divided into several subsequent areas that may overlap. Depending on each issue, the standard provides appropriate guidelines and implementation strategies for organizations to self-assess their current status and set achievable goals for improvement.
What is social responsibility and why is it important?
Social responsibility dictates that companies have an inherent duty to act in the best interests of the environment and society. The primary goal of social responsibility is to contribute to sustainable development. Organizations, after all, play a critical role in relation to the society in which they operate, and they have a moral responsibility to operate in a manner that ensures they maintain healthy ecosystems and social equity.
ISO 26000 has emphasized that a critical factor in operating efficiently for a business is its ability to pursue economic performance whilst adhering to social and environmental laws. Organizations are becoming increasingly aware, due to social pressure, of the importance and need for socially responsible behaviour, in part because their activities depend on the health of the world’s ecosystems in the long term.
How does an organization benefit from being socially responsible?
Implementation of the policies and guidelines outlined in ISO 26000 provides companies with:
- Better reputation;
- Increased ability to attract and retain workers as well as customers and stakeholders;
- Upkeep of employee morale, commitment and productivity;
- Favourable public perception with investors, owners, donors and financial interests.
- Improved external relationships with other companies, media and community.
ISO 26000 also offers guidance for companies to find a competitive advantage by adopting a sustainable position which distinguishes your company as the better option among your competitors. Social responsibility can easily be incorporated into brand building. You want to associate your company name with a positive image and a great way to do this is to implement socially responsible strategies into company policies that can be universally commended. You might even be opening the door for further marketing opportunities and co-brands as well.
ISO 26000 also offers an avenue for you to maintain employee morale. People want to feel like they’re making a significant difference in the world, something that gives them a purpose to work better and harder. Encouraging better and more socially responsible strategies allows employees to feel proud of the company they work for which in turn fosters a keen sense of loyalty and can aid in retaining good talent. Multiple studies have found employees to be considerably more satisfied with their job when belonging to companies that market themselves as socially responsible. – Source
For example, Bell Canada has released a 2019 Corporate Responsibility Report, covering the company’s performance in 2018 and how through strong corporate responsibility practices, they were able to recruit and retain talented team members, reduce risk, build customer loyalty and long-term shareholder value.
ISO.org has provided basic training materials for the standard to help your organization in the implementation of ISO 26000 including a PowerPoint presentation and Training Protocol Guidance PDF document. They, along with other supports, can be found here.