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Working together - Partnerships for positive results

by Achim Steiner, Georg Kell, Mark Halle & Ernst Ligteringen on
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Achieving sustainability requires global, holistic and practical solutions and ISO is working with a wide cross-section of stakeholders, including public and private sector international organizations to make this a reality.

ISO’s technical committees have formal liaison relations with over 700 international and regional organizations. Here are the viewpoints of leaders from four international organizations working within the ISO system and how they view the benefits provided by ISO standards. The examples illustrate how ISO standards serve as tools in the three dimensions of sustainable development.

Achim Steiner Achim Steiner

Achim Steiner, Executive Director, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)

Company and organizational sustainability efforts, which contribute to a more resource efficient and green economy, have evolved over the last two decades and increasingly address strategic mainstream business concerns. Rio+20 will offer an opportunity for decision makers to take stock, galvanize commitment and fast forward needed change. ISO standards, particularly the ISO 14000 family of standards for environmental management and ISO 26000 on social responsibility, have been crucial in underpinning and setting this framework for change. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is proud to contribute and work in partnership with ISO.

Though much has been done, more work remains. As the bulk of greening investment will have to come from the private sector, harnessing and further enhancing private sector sustainability efforts remains challenging. UNEP commends the work of ISO technical committee ISO/TC 207 to address sustainability along the value chain through footprint standards on water and carbon. ISO could also consider extending the current work on sustainability indicators to reporting at the organizational level. UNEP looks forward to working with ISO to prompt innovation and green technologies and their deployment. ISO is considering a draft standard based on the Common Carbon Metric (CCM), developed by UNEP’s Sustainable Buildings and Climate Initiative, which would provide additional support to advance energy efficiency and reduce GHG emissions in the building sector. Engaging consumers and the demand for more sustainable goods and services will also be critical and product label standards could assist consumer decision-making.

Georg Kell Georg Kell

Georg Kell, Executive Director, United Nations Global Compact

Corporate sustainability, as advocated by the UN Global Compact and ISO, is the most fundamental contribution of business to sustainable development. It is only through the adoption of universal value frameworks that responsible practices can be disseminated across sectors and markets, thus contributing to a more sustainable and inclusive global economy.

ISO and the UN Global Compact are connected by the shared belief that organizations should operate in a responsible manner. ISO 26000 on social responsibility, which is closely aligned with the Global Compact’s principles, has given a boost to our joint efforts to establish a common understanding of corporate sustainability – and of the need to measure and benchmark its implementation.

And while nearly 6 500 businesses in over 135 countries have joined the Global Compact, the guidance provided by ISO 26000 can lead many more on a path towards greater sustainability. What’s more, ISO’s global reach can help build capacity to advance universal principles in business everywhere, particularly in developing countries.

Gearing up for the critical Rio+20 Summit this June, it is quite clear that sustainable development remains a momentous challenge. Overcoming the many systemic barriers that exist – from governance failures to short-term obsessions – will require a concerted effort. The ongoing collaboration between ISO and the Global Compact is an important step in the right direction.

Mark Halle Mark Halle

Mark Halle, Director, International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD)

We welcome ISO’s commitment to developing “ standards for a sustainable world ”. The International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) is proud of its long collaboration with ISO, from the development of the ISO 14000 family of standards for environmental management in the early 1990s to our leadership in the multi-stakeholder working group on the development of ISO 26000 on social responsibility. The latter is of particular relevance given that it was the largest multi-stakeholder standards development process in the history of ISO.

Standards provide much needed certainty and legitimacy to sustainable production and consumption. As such, we welcome ISO’s growing portfolio of sustainability standards that now span energy management, greenhouse gas monitoring and reporting, lifecycle costing, renewable energy technologies and much more.

We also take note of ISO efforts to increase transparency and stakeholder participation across the ISO system and especially in standards development processes. We also value ISO’s dedicated and long standing efforts to seek out expertise from developing countries. For it is indeed with this insight that ISO can maintain its branding and relevance in a more sustainable tomorrow.

Ernst Ligteringen Ernst Ligteringen

Ernst Ligteringen, Chief Executive, Global Reporting Initiative (GRI)

Through its ISO 26000 guidance standard on social responsibility, ISO is helping companies improve their processes and quality of management skills. ISO 26000 is a great tool providing organizations with a clear overview of social responsibility and helping them understand the logic and architecture between different points of reference, such as the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, the UN Global Compact principles and ISO 14000 for environmental management.

Companies have a big impact on sustainable development. By being transparent and reporting their sustainability performance, they can operate more responsibly and make improvements. This in turn increases the long-term viability of companies, therefore strengthening the market.

ISO and GRI signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in September 2011 to increase their cooperation. GRI’s mission is to make sustainability reporting standard practice : by offering a global reporting framework, GRI aims to make reporting transparent and effective both externally to communicate to stakeholders, and internally to identify areas for improvement. Organizations can improve their sustainability performance by following the management guidance of ISO and the reporting guidance of GRI.

The UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) provides an opportunity to propose that sustainability reporting be made standard practice. GRI is calling on UN member states to commit to develop a global policy framework requiring all listed and large private companies to consider sustainability issues and to integrate material sustainability information within the reporting cycle, in their annual report and accounts – or explain why, if they do not.

It’s time for companies and regulators to step forward and be transparent – for people, the planet and our sustainable