"Sustainable business for organizations means not only providing products and services that satisfy the customer, and doing so without jeopardizing the environment, but also operating in a socially responsible manner. Pressure to do so comes from customers, consumers, governments, associations and the public at large.”

from “ISO and Social Responsibility"

What is Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)?

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is a model in which an organization acknowledges its accountability to its stakeholders and environment. In this context, the term “stakeholder” encompasses everyone the organization affects, including the traditional investor and customer corporate stakeholders, as well as employees, communities, suppliers, regulators, and society as a whole. Without external enforcement, socially responsible corporations seek to reduce the negative impact of their activities. Core issues that are usually addressed in CSR include:

  1. Environment
  2. Human rights
  3. Labor Practices
  4. Fair Operating Practices
  5. Organizational Governance
  6. Consumer Issues
  7. Community and Society

Proponents of CSR note that the long-term strategizing that goes into implementing CSR practices can enhance an organization’s overall efficacy. With the public increasingly expecting socially responsible practices, an organization can boost its image by engaging in CSR planning. However, critics of CSR suggest that some businesses may be adopting superficial changes to capitalize on the public relations boost of appearing socially responsible. Although corporate social practices may encounter government or other external oversight during instances of extremely negative activities (e.g., human rights violations or environmental crises such as an oil-spill), there is not yet a clearly established set of guidelines for implementing effective CSR.

ISO 26000 will add value to existing initiatives for Social Responsibility by providing harmonized, globally relevant guidance based on international consensus among expert representatives of the main stakeholder groups and so encourage the implementation of best practice in Social Responsibility worldwide.

“ISO and Social Responsibility”

Establishing Global Standards: ISO 26000

In 2005, ISO established a Working Group to develop ISO 26000, a new set of standards and guidance for implementing socially responsible practices. The core issues being addressed in these standards reflect the same core issues that comprise CSR, with the scope widened to also address social responsibility in non-corporate organizations (e.g., governments, NGOs, etc). ISO 26000 will comply with existing SR standards (e.g., ILO, SA8000, Declaration of Human Rights), while accounting for the range of definitions of “Social Responsibility” already being implemented by independent SR programs across the world.

The goal of ISO 26000 is to enhance and encourage SR efforts in organizations across the world by establishing common means of evaluation, defining SR concepts, and sharing examples of best practices. The practices set forth in ISO 26000 will be voluntary standards and guidance for achieving socially responsible practices, rather than certification requirements.

ISO 26000 is being developed through a multi-stakeholder process—ISO’s first utilization of this approach. The Working Group includes participants from across the world, representing developed and developing nations, and the six stakeholder categories of industry; government; consumer; labor; NGOs; and service, support, and research. To facilitate effective participation by the stakeholders, six Task Groups have been created within the Working Group. Three Task Groups focus on administrative strategy tasks, while the other three Task Groups focus on writing the standards (see figure below).


diagram of organization of working group

ISO 26000 is still under development, with a final publication date slated for mid-2010. In keeping with that timeline, the fourth Working Draft of ISO 26000 is scheduled to be released in June 2008. At this point in the process some key issues, such as establishing a standardized definition of “sustainability,” are not yet resolved.

Further Resources

[ top ]