ISO 26000 is an international standard that aims to provide guidance on how companies can be socially responsible. It covers a wide range of issues, from labor rights to environmental responsibility.
The standard is designed for companies that want to implement social responsibility practices in their own operations and within their supply chain.
The ISO 26000: Guidance on Social Responsibility is a standard for social responsibility published by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).
It defines social responsibility as “ the responsibility of an organization for the impacts of its decisions and activities on society and the environment through transparent and ethical behavior that:
The ISO 26000 standard outlines the principles and guidelines of the concept of social responsibility.
The standard aims to help organizations—from companies to NGOs, cooperatives, unions, etc.—operate in a socially responsible way and integrate socially responsible behavior into their organizational culture.
This means that organizations are aware of how their actions and decisions impact people and the environment around them, and act accordingly.
ISO 26000 outlines key values, which are viewed as the roots of socially responsible behavior. As part of their approach to responsibility, companies will make sure to integrate those values within their DNA and in every decision they make.
ISO 26000 gives 7 core subjects to work on, related to the organizations’ operations.
The standard insists on the holistic aspect of a social responsibility approach: each of the 7 subjects must be understood as being a constituent element of a coherent whole.
The subjects are then further divided into several subsequent issues, which explain the guidelines that companies are asked to follow. Companies will identify the relevant and priority issues for them.
Decisions are to be made in consideration of the expectations of society.
Accountability, transparency, ethics, and stakeholders should be factors in the organization’s decision-making process.
All humans have the right to fair treatment and the elimination of discrimination, torture, and exploitation.
Those working on behalf of the organization are not a commodity. The goal is to prevent unfair competition based on exploitation and abuse.
The organization has a responsibility to reduce and eliminate unsustainable volumes and patterns of production and consumption and to ensure that resource consumption per person becomes sustainable.
Building systems of fair competition, preventing corruption, encouraging fair competition, and promoting the reliability of fair business practices help to build sustainable social systems.
The promotion of fair, sustainable, and equitable economic and social development concerning consumer health, safety, and access is the organization’s responsibility.
The organization should be involved with creating sustainable social structures where increasing levels of education and well-being can exist.
Organizations in the private, public, and nonprofit sectors, whether large or small, and whether operating in developed or developing countries, use ISO 26000. All of the core subjects of social responsibility are relevant in some way to every organization.
ISO 26000 can be used for example by:
Because ISO 26000 offers an operational framework and a practical, pragmatic methodological approach, it can be used by all in any scope: government level, organization level, site level, product/service level and even project/program level.
As a voluntary international standard that has emerged from an international consensus, ISO 26000 stands out from others for several reasons:
ISO 26000 is one of the most comprehensive and concise guides of what an organization should do to contribute to sustainable development.
It constitutes a valuable tool for the implementation of the United Nations’ Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals.
Using ISO 26000 helps companies manage and reduce risks, and identify new opportunities. It is a great framework to start the sustainability journey.
Increasing social responsibility contributes to a “virtuous cycle” where each action strengthens the company and encourages sustainable development among all stakeholders.
Implementing the policies and guidelines outlined in ISO 26000 provides companies with:
ISO 26000 is open source, available to anyone to use and is customizable to fit everyone’s context and needs.
It is not mandatory for companies to buy the official ISO 26000 publication to implement the standard’s guidelines. They can use all resources available to learn about and understand it (online information, books etc.).
ISO 26000 is designed to work in all organizational and cultural contexts, in any country or region. On the operational side, there are no certification or specific requirements, as well as no particular timeline.
Organizations can use the standard’s suggestions for implementing a social responsibility policy as they like and in the timeline, they decide.
The steps for implementing a social responsibility policy following ISO 26000 guidance may vary depending on the strategy and objectives defined by companies.
However, the 8 steps below provide an idea of what the process generally looks like:
Companies can use the many resources available online to train managers and employees to ensure that socially responsible behaviors are implemented throughout the organization and integrated into the day-to-day business.
The 7 core subjects contain 37 issues in total.
Not all of the 37 specific issues will be relevant to every company. For each issue, the standard provides appropriate guidelines and implementation strategies for companies to self-assess their current status and set achievable goals for improvement.
ISO 26000 defines a “stakeholder” as “an individual or group that has an interest in any decision or activity of an organization.”
Stakeholder categories include workers, clients, purchasers, consumers, owners, investors, government officials, community residents, and suppliers.
Companies must have two-way discussions with them about how they can both best work together.
It can be the trickiest part of the process so it’s important to make sure:
Based on the current picture diagnostic, companies will:
The standard urges that, at appropriate intervals, users report on their performance on social responsibility to affected stakeholders.
The standard suggests that the report should include:
This report itself is considered as an act of social responsibility.
Such a CSR report can also take into account other CSR reporting standards and frameworks.
For instance, the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), a non-governmental organization created to develop and manage a sustainability reporting framework, provides guidance on how to use the GRI G4 Guidelines in conjunction with the ISO 26000 standard.
As part of a continuing dialogue between companies and their ecosystem.
Because ISO 26000 is not for certification purposes, the International Organization for Standardization is extremely sensitive to any uses of the name “ISO 26000” that could imply that an organization or company has been, or needs to be, certified to the standard.
ISO recommends that companies say:
“[Business Name] recognizes ISO 26000 as a reference document that provides guidance on social responsibility.”
“[Business Name] has used ISO 26000 as a guide to integrate social responsibility into our values and practices.”
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While our team of dedicated ESG consultants can specifically help you understand and implement the ISO 26000 within your organization.
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