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ISO 26000 receives major boost to become official international standard


Global March has learned that ISO 26000 on Social Responsibility has successfully passed the last development phase and has been approved for publication as an official international standard to be issued by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). ISO targets publication on 1st November 2010. The document distils global agreement on: definitions and principles of social responsibility; core issues to be addressed in implementing social responsibility; and guidance on how to integrate social responsibility throughout the operations of an organisation.

The process to create ISO 26000 dates back to January 2005 when a working group was established within ISO to develop an international standard providing guidelines for social responsibility. The objective was to produce a voluntary guidance document and not a specification document intended for third-party certification. Six main stakeholder groups were represented in the working group covering industry, government, labour (including Global March Governing Board member, the International Trade Union Confederation ITUC), consumers, non-governmental organisations, service, support, research and others. In all, some 400 people took part which made the working group ISO’s biggest ever.

The standard is intended to add value to and not replace existing inter-governmental agreements with relevance to social responsibility, such as the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and those adopted by the International Labour Organization (ILO). ISO has a Memorandum of Understanding with the ILO to ensure consistency with its core labour standards. It is expected that the standard will be usable for organisations of all sizes, in countries at every stage of development.

According to the ISO: “ISO 26000 will add value to existing initiatives for social responsibility by providing harmonised, 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 Secretary-General Rob Steele commented that “ISO 26000 … will be a powerful tool to help organisations move from good intentions about social responsibility to good actions.”

Welcoming the announcement, ITUC General Secretary Sharon Burrow stated that ISO 26000 “will contribute to a better understanding of social responsibility through its clarification of important concepts. We are satisfied that this text provides a comprehensive distillation of responsible labour practices that are consistent with the international labour standards of the ILO.”

However, she went on to offer a cautionary comment that: “We support the emphasis given to authoritative international instruments in this text as well as the recognition that it is not for individual organisations to unilaterally define the interests of society. Only the ILO has the mandate to set international standards that impact upon the world of work. Furthermore, support for ISO 26000 does not mean that we would support further ISO standards relative to workers and their workplaces. Private standards must not become a substitute for public policy established through democratic and representative political processes.” A view shared by Global March.


Sources: ISO, ITUC

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