ISO 26000 is a voluntary guidance standard on social responsibility designed for use by any organization. It can be used by business leaders to plan and implement actions to improve their sustainability – economically, socially, and environmentally.
What is ISO 26000, and who is it for?
For many successful businesspeople – and perhaps for you – being socially responsible is a part of who they are and why they are in business: to provide useful products and services, to provide jobs and development opportunities for their communities, and to gain satisfaction through meaningful work. In many countries, these “socially responsible entrepreneurs” have been quietly making a difference by acting on their values and principles, and inspiring others. They have the spirit of social responsibility already.
ISO 26000 provides broad guidance, but does not offer specific instructions or require specific outcomes. Businesses that implement ISO 26000 have opportunities to identify and act on their own priorities, and to build stronger business models in the spirit of “continuous improvement.” Implementers of ISO 26000 will develop their unique corporate social responsibility programs and become models for others.
How does ISO 26000 encourage sustainable development?
Sustainable development is growth and change that maintains and improves the natural environment, human resources, and society upon which we depend. Businesses that identify, maintain, and improve their natural and human resources are highly competitive. They are more able to cope with challenges in the marketplace. They can anticipate and reduce threats caused by environmental changes or natural disasters, and can better adapt to significant social changes. No business can predict the future perfectly; but smart businesses can plan for a future in which significant social and environmental changes occur. Businesses that contribute to a more sustainable society are more likely to be valued and supported by consumers, supply chains, and policy makers. ISO 26000 provides information and decision-making tools for businesses to identify ways they can improve their impacts on the people and places they work and live in, and thereby become more valuable and valued members of society.
Key Elements of ISO 26000:
Stakeholders, Core Subjects and Reporting
1) Stakeholders are those people and groups that are affected by the actions of your business. These can include workers, suppliers, community residents, consumers, and investors. Communicating with them is one of the best ways a business can find out where it is doing a good job, and where it could improve.
2) Core Subjects
ISO 26000 identifies seven core subjects that socially responsible businesses should address. Implementers of ISO 26000 should evaluate their actions in each of the core subjects, to identify what they are doing in their current practices, and to set priorities for improvements.
Organizational governance – practicing accountability and transparency at all levels of your organization; using leadership to create an organizational culture which uses core values of social responsibility when making business decisions.
Human rights – treating all individuals with respect; making special efforts to help people from vulnerable groups.
Labor practices – providing just, safe and healthy conditions for workers; engaging in two-way discussions to address workers’ concerns.
Environment– identifying and improving environmental impacts of your operations, including resource use and waste disposal.
Fair operating practices – respecting the law; practicing accountability and fairness in your dealings with other businesses, including your suppliers.
Consumer issues – providing healthy and safe products, giving accurate information, and promoting sustainable consumption.
Community involvement and development – getting involved in the betterment of the local communities that your organization operates in; being a good neighbor.
This is a valuable tool for engaging stakeholders and for promoting your achievements. Implementers of ISO 26000 should report on activities and decisions in as many of the seven core subjects as they can. If they do not address a core subject, they need to: (1) explain why they omitted it, and (2) include it in a plan for consideration in the future.