ISO 26000 is an international standard offering guidance in Social Responsibility (SR). It is designed to be used by organizations of all types, in both public and private sectors in developed and developing countries and economies in transition. The standard will help organizations in their efforts to operate in a socially responsible manner; this means acting in an ethical and transparent way that contributes to the health and welfare of society.
This standard was launched in November 2010 by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). ISO 26000 – Guidance on Social Responsibility is the product of five years of negotiations between many different stakeholders across the world. Six main stakeholder groups were represented: industry, government, labor, consumers, NGOs, service, support, research ,and others, as well as a geographical and gender balance of participants. Their main goal was to produce a standard that will contribute to global sustainable development, by encouraging business and other organizations to practice social responsibility to improve their impacts on their workers, their natural environments and their communities.
Previous initiatives have tended to focus on “corporate social responsibility”, while ISO 26000 provides guidance on SR not only for business organizations, but also for public sector and organizations of all kinds. ISO 26000 is based on the best existing SR practices and is a powerful tool to help organizations move from good intentions to good actions by providing guidance on:
- Concepts, terms and definitions related to SR
- Background, trends and characteristics of SR
- Principles and practices relating to SR
- Core subjects and issues of SR
- Integration, implementing and promoting socially responsible behavior throughout the organization and through its policies and practices, within its sphere of influence
- Identification and engagement with stakeholders
- Communicating commitments, performance and other information related to SR.
This standard is clear and comprehensive – even for non-specialists – and specifies objectives which are applicable to all types of organizations, including large, small and medium business, government and NGOs.
Leaders worldwide recognize that to have a long-lasting success, organizations need to ensure healthy ecosystems, social equity, and good organizational governance. Some organizations are subject to greater scrutiny by their various stakeholders where the perception and reality of an organization’s performance on social responsibility can influence, among other things:
- Its competitive advantage;
- Its reputation;
- Its ability to attract and retain workers or members, customers, clients or users;
- The maintenance of employees’ morale, commitment and productivity;
- The view of investors, owners, donors, sponsors and the financial community; and
- Its relationship with companies, governments, the media, suppliers, peers, customers and the community in which it operates.
ISO 26000 contains voluntary guides, not requirements, and thus is not used as a standard for certification. It’s a guide for organizations to integrate social responsibility into their values and practices in an effective manner.