ISO has assigned the leadership of the working group that will develop an International Standard giving guidelines for social responsibility collectively to the national standards institutes of Brazil (ABNT) and Sweden (SIS).

This twinning of a developing country member of ISO with a developed country is one of the measures being applied by the organization to strengthen the participation of the developing countries that make up 110 out its total membership of 146.

In a recent message to ISO, United Nations Secretary-General Mr. Kofi Annan welcomed ISO's decision to develop a standard on social responsibility, describing it as "an initiative which dovetails well with the universal principles of the UN Global Compact on human rights, labour conditions, the environment and anti-corruption."

The working group on social responsibility will report directly to the ISO Technical Management Board (TMB), which oversees the organization's standards development programme.

ISO will shortly issue a new work item proposal for development of the SR standard to its member bodies. They will have three months to vote on the proposal which will be accepted if approved by a majority of the members voting and a commitment by at least five members to participate actively in the work.

Member bodies who decide to participate will be encouraged to the extent possible to nominate up to six experts, one for each of the following six categories of stakeholders: industry, government, labour, consumers, nongovernmental organizations and others.

At the same time, ISO will issue invitations to a number of international organizations to participate as "liaison organizations" by nominating up to two experts each to serve on the working group. Other interested international or broadly-based regional organizations may apply at any time to participate and such applications will be considered case-by-case by the TMB whose objective is to ensure a balance of stakeholder representation within the working group.

In accordance with the normal ISO working methods, the working group will be charged with developing a draft standard that represents a consensus of the views of the participating experts. At the same time, ISO expects that the member bodies who nominate experts will also establish national "mirror committees" and that these will formulate national positions on the successive drafts developed by the working group.

The ultimate aim is that the consensus reached in the working group is validated through the ISO member body votes on the draft International Standard (DIS). Although under ISO's rules liaison organizations cannot vote, the rules do provide for their full and formal backing to be sought and ISO will explicitly implement this provision on the social responsibility standard at both DIS and final draft International Standard (FDIS) stages.

It will be the responsibility of ABNT-SIS to organize and convene the first meeting of the working group. ISO expects the standard to be completed for publication in 2007.