The first meeting of the ISO group that is to develop an International Standard giving guidelines on social responsibility has been scheduled for 7-11 March 2005 in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil. ISO expects that developing the standard will take three years, with publication in early 2008.
The standard will provide guiding principles on social responsibility (SR). It will not be a management system standard and will not be for certification purposes.
The national standards institutes that make up ISO's membership recently approved SR as a new work item for the organization, which has a current portfolio of more than 15 000 standards providing benefits for almost every sector of business and technology. Of the 37 countries that voted, 32 wish to participate in developing the SR standard.
The job will be done by the specially created ISO Working Group on Social Responsibility. At the group's upcoming first meeting, it will mainly focus on organizing its future work, discussing and determining aspects such as the following:
- the structure and terms of the reference of the working group,
- the structure of the SR guideline standard,
- a project plan,
- appointing convenors and secretariats for its subgroups.
Strong support for ISO to launch an SR standard has come from its developing country members and in assigning the leadership of the SR working group, ISO chose to twin the national standards institute of a developing country, Brazil (ABNT), with that of an industrialized one, Sweden (SIS).
The Chair is Mr. Jorge E.R. Cajazeira, Excellence Programme Corporate Manager of the Suzano Group's Pulp and Paper Division, of Brazil, and the Vice Chair is Ms. Catarina Munck af Rosenschöld, Manager Corporate Citizenship, of the Volvo Car Corporation, Sweden. The Secretary is Ms. Kristina Sandberg, Sector Manager, Management Systems, SIS, and the Co-Secretary is Mr. Eduardo Campos de São Thiago, Coordinator of International Relations, ABNT.
Jorge Cajazeira said that the SR group's work would be notable for its transparency and emphasis on providing added value: "ISO's future SR guideline standard is of great interest to stakeholder groups such as regulators, labour and nongovernmental organizations that have previously had limited contact with ISO. We shall no doubt need to be innovative in order to engage with them fruitfully, while implementing ISO's fundamental principles, including openness and transparency in the work.
"In addition, I emphasize that ISO's work is intended to add value to, and not to 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), and other UN conventions.
"ISO can add value by developing an international consensus on basic guiding principles that will bring clarity, encourage communication and allow meaningful comparisons in the field of social responsibility."
As Vice Chair, Catarina Munck af Rosenschöld is designated in particular to lead the proposed Task Group on Funding and Stakeholder Engagement that will have the mission of finding money to make participation easier for developing countries and other stakeholder groups with limited resources.
She commented: "We shall endeavour to unite a majority of the world's experts on social responsibility within the working group. Our expectation is that the participants will represent many different areas of expertise and many types of organization in order to provide a solid base of input from the diversity of SR stakeholders. The challenge is to take account of the existing global principles, standards, guidelines and knowledge into our work and at the same time be creative in the development of this guidance document.
"Our ambition is to develop guiding principles with global relevance that will be useful to organizations worldwide in establishing, implementing, maintaining and improving the way they address social responsibility."
For further information on ISO's social responsibility initiative, see:
- Guidance on social responsibility