ISO lays the foundations of ISO 26000 guidance standard on social responsibility


23 Nov 2009


The future ISO 26000 standard giving guidance on social responsibility has taken a significant step forward with ISO deciding on the structure and overall contents, as well as fixing a target release date of last quarter 2008.

The ISO Working Group on Social Responsibility (WG SR) laid the foundations of ISO 26000 at its second meeting, 26-30 September 2005 , in Bangkok, Thailand. ISO 26000 will give organizations harmonized, internationally agreed guidance for social responsibility, drawing on best practice and consistent with relevant declarations and conventions by the United Nations and its constituents, notably the International Labour Organization (ILO). The standard will not contain requirements allowing ISO 26000 to be used for certification.

The Bangkok meeting was attended by experts from 54 ISO member countries (45 of these countries were participants, and nine of them observers), plus 24 international organizations in liaison, including the ILO - a total of some 350 people, with a significant increase in the number from developing countries compared with the first meeting in March 2005 in Brazil.

One of the principal achievements in Bangkok was developing the "design specification" (structural outline) for ISO 26000. The WG SR agreed on the following structure to organize the content of the future standard :

  1. Introduction
  2. Scope
  3. Normative references
  4. Terms and definitions
  5. The SR context in which all organizations operate
  6. SR principles relevant to organizations
  7. Guidance on core SR subjects/issues
  8. Guidance for organizations on implementing SR
    Guidance annexes

The work of drafting the content of clauses 1, 4, 5, 6 and 7 will be carried out within three task groups that will be set up during the next 2-3 months according to a process designed by the WG SR to ensure balanced representation of the WG's stakeholder groups: industry; government; labour; consumers; nongovernmental organizations; service, support, research and others. In addition, the leadership of the task groups will be shared between developed and developing countries. Responsibility for drafting the other sections has not yet been assigned.

According to guidance drafted by the WG SR to assist these task groups, ISO 26000 must be clear, understandable and objective throughout, and applicable to all types of organization, including governmental ones.

Another outcome of the Bangkok meeting was a draft project plan that targets publication of a draft ISO 26000 in November-December 2007, a final draft in September 2008 and the fully fledged International Standard in October 2008.

The joint WG SR leaders commented on the progress achieved. Chair, Mr. Jorge E.R. Cajazeira, nominated by ABNT (Brazil), said: "Our first meeting in Brazil was very dynamic with lots of energy going in all directions. In Bangkok, the energy was still high but it was focused and this resulted in an outstanding meeting where we made very real progress on ISO 26000. Because ISO 26000 must reflect an international consensus among all the stakeholder categories impacted by social responsibility, the WG SR includes people of very different backgrounds and experience. We are now pulling together as a team and while the road ahead includes its share of challenges, the WG SR has the will to tackle and overcome them, because we know our work is important."

Acting Vice-Chair, Staffan Söderberg, nominated by SIS (Sweden), concurred: "Social responsibility is a new work area for ISO , engaging new stakeholders like the unions and nongovernmental organizations, and calling for innovative working processes to ensure the effective participation of this broad base. While our debates are vigorous and tough on the issues, we are respectful of each other as people and this is no doubt why many have commented on the good feeling they had about the Bangkok meeting, as well as their positive expectations for the next steps."

In addition to laying the foundations for ISO 26000, the WG SR continued to explore means of communicating about its work (these include a dedicated ISO SR Web site which is now up and running: ) and how to improve further the broad participation in its work. The latter item includes identifying any key parties not so far involved, how to increase participation by under-represented stakeholder categories, and finding donor organizations and other sources of funding for such participation.

The Bangkok meeting of the WG SR was hosted by the Thai Industrial Standards Institute (TISI), with the collaboration of the Japanese Industrial Standards Committee (JISC). The next meeting will be held in May or June 2006 in Lisbon, Portugal, at the invitation of the Portuguese Quality Institute (IPQ).

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