ISO, the International Organization for Standardization, has launched an International Standard providing guidelines for social responsibility (SR) named ISO 26000 or simply ISO SR and was released on 1 November 2010.
Guidance without certification
This standard offers guidance on socially responsible behavior and possible actions; it does not contain requirements and, therefore, in contrast to ISO management system standards, is not certifiable.
The ISO 26000 scope clearly states "This International Standard 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 this International Standard. As this International Standard does not contain requirements, any such certification would not be a demonstration of conformity with this International Standard." This statement includes that ISO 26000 cannot be used as basis for audits, conformity tests and certificates, or for any other kind of compliance statements.
However, the practical value of ISO 26000 might be limited if it merely provided a common understanding of social responsibility instead of also facilitating management routines and practices leading to social responsibility. Despite the non-certifiability some scholars see distinct elements of a management system standard also in ISO 26000. Against this background, the potential benefits of the new standard, the managerial relevance, and specific limitations of ISO 26000 are currently being discussed.
As a guidance document the ISO 26000 is an offer, voluntary in use, and encourages organizations to discuss their social responsibility issues and possible actions with relevant stakeholders. As service providers, certification bodies do not belong to an organization’s stakeholders. ISO 26000 encourages to reconsider an organization's social responsibility or "socially responsible behaviour" and to identify/select from its recommendations those where the organization could/should engage in contributions to society. ISO 26000 encourages further to report on actions taken.
There is a range of many different opinions as to the right approach ranging from strict legislation at one end to complete freedom at the other. ISO 26000 is looking for a golden middle way that promotes respect and responsibility based on known reference documents without stifling creativity and development.
ISO chose Swedish Standards Institute (SIS) and ABNT, Brazilian Association of Technical Standards to provide the joint leadership of the ISO Working Group on Social Responsibility (WG SR). The WG SR was given the task of drafting an International Standard for social responsibility that was published in 2010 as ISO 26000.
Target: wide range
The need for organizations in both public and private sectors to behave in a socially responsible way is becoming a generalized requirement of society. It is shared by the stakeholder groups that are participating in the WG SR to develop ISO 26000: industry, government, labour, consumers, nongovernmental organizations and others, in addition to geographical and gender-based balance.
- E.g., Hahn, R. (2012): "Standardizing Social Responsibility? New Perspectives on Guidance Documents and Management System Standards for Sustainable Development". In: IEEE - Transactions on Engineering Management doi:10.1109/TEM.2012.2183639
- For a largely positive assessment see e.g., Hahn, R. (2012): "Standardizing Social Responsibility? New Perspectives on Guidance Documents and Management System Standards for Sustainable Development". In: IEEE - Transactions on Engineering Management doi:10.1109/TEM.2012.2183639. A largely pessimistic view can be found in, for example, Schwarz, B. & Tilling, K. (2009): "‘ISO-lating’ Corporate Social Responsibility in the Organizational Context: A Dissenting Interpretation of ISO 26000". In: Corporate Social Responsibility and Environmental Management doi:10.1002/csr.211
- Hahn, R. (2012): "Transnational Governance, Deliberative Democracy, and the Legitimacy of ISO 26000". In: Business and Society doi:10.1177/0007650312462666
- For a detailed analysis of the ISO 26000 development process see Hahn, R. (2012): "Transnational Governance, Deliberative Democracy, and the Legitimacy of ISO 26000". In: Business and Society doi:10.1177/0007650312462666
- "Future ISO 26000 standard on social responsibility reaches positive turning point". ISO. 13 February 2007. Retrieved 24 August 2012.
- NORMAPME ISO 26000 User Guide for European SMEs
- ISO 26000 User Guide, IFAN recommended
- ISO 26000 User Guide, in various languages
- ISO 26000 Working documents website
- Presentation of the ISO26000 project, by SIS Winter/Spring 2006
- ISO 26000 Community on LinkedIn
- The ISO Working Group on Social Responsibility: developing the future ISO SR 26000 Standard, briefing paper written by Bart Slob and Gerard Oonk
- ISO 26000 de Responsabilidad Social Empresarial (español)
- Portal de Responsabilidad Social Empresarial de Chile(español)
- Blog de la ISO 26000 (español)
- Social Responsibility ISO26000 & SA8000