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European Commission backs ISO 26000

by Roger Frost on
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The ISO International Standard ISO 26000 is one of the three documents being recommended by the European Commission (EC) on guidance for European enterprises to fulfil their commitment to social responsibility.

The recommendation comes in a recently published communication from the EC to governing bodies of the European Union (EU) outlining a renewed strategy for corporate social responsibility (CSR) in the EU from 2011 to 2014.

The Commission intends to monitor the commitments made by European enterprises with more than 1000 employees to take account of internationally recognized CSR principles and guidelines and of the ISO 26000 guidance standard on social responsibility in their operation.

At the same time, the Commission invites all large European enterprises to make a commitment by 2014 to take account of at least one of three sets of principles and guidelines when developing their approach to CSR: ISO 26000, the United Nations Global Compact, or the Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises developed by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

The motivation for boosting CSR in Europe according to the EC is that, "The economic crisis and its social consequences have to some extent damaged consumer confidence and levels of trust in business. They have focused public attention on the social and ethical performance of enterprises. By renewing efforts to promote CSR now, the Commission aims to create conditions favourable to sustainable growth, responsible business behaviour and durable employment generation in the medium and long term."

ISO 26000 was launched on 1 November 2010 and has become one of ISO's best known and important standards. It provides guidance on social responsibility (SR) – the SR designation underlining ISO's intention that it should be as useful for public sector and non-governmental organizations as it is for business corporations.

According to the standard, the perception and reality of an organization's performance on social responsibility can influence, among other things:

  • Competitive advantage
  • Reputation
  • Ability to attract and retain workers or members, customers, clients or users
  • Maintenance of employees' morale, commitment and productivity
  • View of investors, owners, donors, sponsors and the financial community
  • Relationship with companies, governments, the media, suppliers, peers, customers and the community in which it operates.

ISO 26000 is a voluntary guidance standard that is not to be used for certification, unlike ISO 9001:2008 (quality management) and ISO 14001:2004 (environmental management) which can be used for certification.

The guidance in ISO 26000 draws on best practice developed by existing public and private sector SR initiatives. It is consistent with and complements relevant declarations and conventions by the United Nations and its constituents, notably the International Labour Organization (ILO), with whom ISO established a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to ensure consistency in ISO 26000 with ILO labour standards. ISO also signed MoUs with the United Nations Global Compact Office and the OECD to enhance their cooperation during the development of ISO 26000.