The development of the future ISO 26000 standard giving guidance on social responsibility has reached a positive "turning point" in terms of consensus and trust among the broad base of participating stakeholders.
This was the opinion of the leadership of the ISO Working Group on Social Responsibility (ISO/WG SR) at the end of its fourth plenary on 29 January-2 February 2007 in Sydney, Australia.
Some 275 people from 54 ISO member countries and 28 international organizations attended, representing the following interests: industry; government; labour; consumers; nongovernmental organizations; and service, support, research and others. Notable at the Sydney meeting was increased participation by experts from developing countries and the programme included a developing countries workshop.
Among the main activities was work on the key topics which had been identified among the 5 176 comments received from the WG SR's experts on the second working draft of ISO 26000 circulated in October 2006.
Core issues were agreed at Sydney and grouped in the following four clusters (each assigned a drafting team):
- human rights and labour practices,
- organizational governance and fair operating practices, and
- consumer issues and community involvement/society development.
The work is now continuing in order to produce a third working draft for circulation and comment before the fifth WG SR meeting in November 2007.
At this working draft stage, the need is to build consensus among individual experts, while the next stage where the developing standard progresses to committee draft status will aim to build consensus among the national standards bodies and international organizations participating.
Vice-Chair Staffan Söderberg, nominated by the ISO member for Sweden, SIS, commented: "Building trust was an important accomplishment during this meeting. The Sydney meeting will be the one remembered as the turning point that put us on the right road."
The Sydney meeting was hosted by Standards Australia whose Chair, John Castles, officially welcomed the WG SR. Among the objectives of the meeting were to increase the accountability of its processes, to clarify its procedures and to increase participation. In line with this last objective, the WG SR welcomed the decision of the UN Global Compact – with whom it recently signed a memorandum of understanding for enhanced cooperation – and its networks to collaborate by establishing links with WG SR national "mirror" committees.
Chair, Mr. Jorge E.R. Cajazeira, nominated by the ISO member for Brazil, ABNT, commented: "A growing number of global leaders, many countries and related stakeholders have added their voices to those urging organizations to remember their obligations to their workforces, communities, and the environment. After Sydney, I am even more confident that ISO 26000 will contribute to helping all kinds of organizations to improve in socially responsible behaviour."
In addition, the ISO/WG SR finalized the establishment of the ISO SR Trust Fund which is now accepting donations to support the group's work.
The next meetings of the ISO/WG SR are:
- 5-9 November 2007, in Vienna, Austria, hosted by the Austrian Standards Institute (ON) with the support of the Austrian Government and Austrian Development Agency (ADA), together with the UN Global Compact and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO).
- 2008, in Santiago, Chile, hosted by the national standards body, INN.