A simple definition of the ISO 26000 standards
Published in 2010 by the International Organization for Standardization, the ISO 26000 standards establish the principles and guidelines of the concept of social responsibility. These standards also offer guidance and suggestions on implementation methods for different kinds of organizations (companies, NGOs, unions, etc) to start operating in a socially responsible way. In this way, it is expected that companies with this certification act ethically, transparently, and contribute to the welfare of society.
ISO 26000 is aligned with the definition of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) as defined in 2001 by the European Union and that’s why in many organizations it is considered a fundamental part of their CSR strategy.
[box] Other ISO standards:
ISO 26000 Standards & Sustainable development
The concept of sustainable development is built upon three pillars: economic, social and environmental. The standards recommended by ISO 26000 can, therefore, be considered as a contribution to sustainable development as they focus on the creation of social welfare, which is one of the cornerstones of sustainable development. In the long run, all organization’s activities depend on the health of the world’s ecosystems to thrive, and in this way, sustainable businesses do not only provide products and services are most eco-friendly as possible but they also operate in a socially responsible manner.
As a response to the pressure public pressure on companies to adopt reasonable business practices such as with good working conditions, fair wages and preventing fraudulent accounting, it is nowadays very important to develop integrated social responsibility strategies.
ISO 26000 Standards – Definition, principles, and scope
Any private or public organization wishing to establish the scope of its social responsibility according to the criteria of the ISO 26000 standard must begin by reflecting on 7 central issues:
- Organizational governance;
- Human rights;
- Labor practices;
- Environmental responsibility;
- The fairness of organizational practices;
- Consumer and consumer protection issues;
- Envolving and developing communities
Each topic subdivided into several areas of action that may differ or overlap from one central issue to another. On each of these issues, ISO 26000 provides guidelines for organizations to evaluate themselves and setting goals for improvement. Each topic is subdivided into several areas of action that may differ or overlap from one central issue to another. On each of these issues, ISO 26000 provides guidelines and a guide for the organization to evaluate itself, set goals for improvement, and achieve them.
The guidelines for the implementation of the international standard ISO 26000 apply to the following fields:
- Concepts, definitions, and terminology of social responsibility;
- Origins, orientations, and characteristics of social responsibility;
- Principles and practices relating to social responsibility;
- Central issues and areas of action of social responsibility;
- Integration, implementation, and promotion of responsible behavior throughout the structure and through influence networks;
- Inventory of different stakeholders and setting up a dialogue;
- Active communication on SAR commitments and performance.
ISO 26000 Standards – Benefits
According to the ‘international organization for standardization’, a good organizational performance on social responsibility can have a positive impact in:
- HR, as it attracts and retains workers, members, clients, and users;
- Marketing and customer engagement, since it improves brand reputation;
- Increasing the commitment and productivity of employees;
- The relationships with stakeholders such as governments, the media, other companies and communities and their perceptions on the organization’s performances and commitments.
ISO 26000 Standards & Certification
As we’ve seen, ISO 26000 is a set of recommendations that aim to help organizations to critically review and plan their social responsibility strategies and translate their principles and objectives into effective actions. Unlike some other well-known ISO standards, ISO 26000 does not offer any certification and it works as a framework for reflection and action instead. This means that ISO 26000 provides organizations with guidance, showing them the methods for defining and acting in socially responsible ways but it does not set specific goals that need to be achieved.
Despite the fact that ISO 26000 does not imply a certification process, following it may lead often to the need of getting other complementary (and certifiable) standards such as ISO 9001 for quality management, ISO 14001 for environmental management and/or ISO 50001 for energy management.
[box] For information on more ISO standards, take a look into:
- ISO 14001 – Environmental Management
- ISO 50001 – Energy Management
- ISO 9001 – Quality Management [/box]
ISO 26000 Standards – Are they efficient and measurable?
Since the ISO 26000 standards do not give rise to the usual certification of the ISO standards, it is difficult to evaluate its effectiveness in a precise way and to quantify the return of the investment (ROI). Nevertheless, by giving organizations’ the keys to managing their social responsibility, ISO 26000 allows them to anchor and sustain a structured CSR approach. It is, therefore, a useful tool for organizations that want to assess the state of their CSR practices, define their lines of action and set up procedures.
Are there ISO 26000 standards for SMEs?
One criticism that is often leveled against the ISO 26000 standards is that it would not be appropriate to the context of small or medium-sized (SME) enterprises. The reasons for this assessment is because following the ISO 26000 approach demands a big effort from organizations regarding not only financial requirements but also in terms of time and personnel. In fact, these standards are perceived as too cumbersome or complex and that it is hard to link them with medium-term benefits.
Nevertheless, there are some tools specifically designed for SMEs that make it possible to embark on a CSR approach similar to that proposed in the ISO 26000 standard such as the CSRhub.