The future ISO 26000 standard giving guidance on social responsibility has passed an important stage in its development by moving from the status of a working draft to a committee draft, indicating that a high level of consensus is being built among the multi-stakeholder representation within the ISO Working Group on Social Responsibility (WG SR).

Photo: Jens Henriksson
An historic moment: the resolution to elevate ISO 26000 to committee draft status is approved and greeted enthusiastically at the 6th plenary meeting of the ISO Working Group on Social Responsibility in Santiago, Chile. From left: Sophie Clivio, Technical Programme Manager, ISO Central Secretariat; Khawla Al-Muhannadi, Spokesperson for the Resolutions Committee; Kristina Sandberg, Secretary of the WG SR; Staffan Söderberg, Vice Chair of the WG SR; Jorge E. R. Cajazeira, Chair of the WG SR; Eduardo Campos de São Thiago, WG Co-Secretary.

The resolution approving the circulation of the document as a committee draft was one of the main outcomes of the 6th plenary meeting of the WG SR, which took place on 1-5 September 2008 in Santiago, Chile. The meeting was one of the largest ISO standards development meetings ever held with 386 experts attending from 76 ISO member countries and 33 liaison organizations.

"The decision to move to the CD stage is not only a milestone in the process of developing ISO 26000," says WG Chair, Jorge E.R. Cajazeira. "It is also living evidence that the multi-stakeholder approach adopted by ISO for this task is an effective tool for dealing with complex subjects in large and highly diversified groups."

WG SR Vice Chair, Staffan Söderberg, comments, "What impresses me the most is the way the SR experts were able and willing to find a consensus even on the most difficult topics. This meeting proved to me the strength of a stakeholder dialogue."

Representatives of six stakeholder groups participate in the WG SR: industry; government; labour; consumers; nongovernmental organizations; and service, support, research and others. Two experts from each stakeholder category – one from a developed country and one from a developing country – take part in the Integrated Drafting Task Force (IDTF) which is responsible for reviewing and revising the ISO 26000 drafts. Representatives from the International Labour Organization and the United Nations Global Compact are also participating in the IDTF.

Prior to the Santiago meeting, the WG SR had received some 5 200 comments on the second edition of the fourth working draft of the standard. On the basis of these comments, the IDTF identified the following key topics to be addressed at the plenary:

  1. International norms of behaviour
  2. Nature of reference to social responsibility initiatives
  3. Nature of reference to government
  4. Sphere of influence (including issues relating to value chain and supply chain)
  5. Picking and choosing (including issues pertaining to relevance and significance and prioritization).

Sufficient progress and consensus on these issues was achieved at the meeting to enable the upgrade of ISO 26000 to a committee draft, which is expected to be completed and released within three months. Publication of ISO 26000 as an International Standard is currently expected in September 2010.

The 6th plenary meeting of the WG SR was hosted by the Chilean National Institute for Standardization (INN) and the opening ceremony included speeches by the Minister of Economy, Hugo Lavado; the Minister of Labour, Osvaldo Andrade, and Executive Director of INN, Sergio Toro.

ISO Deputy Secretary-General Kevin McKinley (right) in conversation in Santiago with Lars Flink, CEO of the Swedish Standards Institute (SIS) which provides the twinned leadership of the WG SR with the Brazilian Association of Technical Standards (ABNT).

Summing up the current state of development of ISO 26000, WG Chair Jorge Cajazeira concludes: "It is encouraging to see how principles and expectations drawn from high-level international agreements, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, are being incorporated in ISO 26000 a way that can be understood and practically applied by organizations worldwide in both public and private sectors."

ISO Deputy Secretary-General Kevin McKinley paid tribute to the work accomplished by the WG SR when he spoke at a reception for the group in Santiago: "The WG on Social Responsibility represents an exciting and important development in the ISO family. Since the launch of this project in ISO's work programme, I have seen an exemplary level of dedication, effort, commitment and stakeholder engagement on this extremely broad and challenging subject of social responsibility."

More information:

Further information on the ISO/WG SR and ISO 26000 is available on its public Web site: www.iso.org/sr

Its working documents are publicly accessible at: www.iso.org/wgsr