Consensus was achieved among the multi-stakeholder participants in the ISO Working Group on Social Responsibility (ISO/WG SR) at its latest meeting on the way forward for the future ISO 26000 standard.

The group's 7th plenary meeting, held in Québec City, Québec, Canada, on 18-22 May 2009, addressed issues stemming from the more than 3 000 comments submitted in a successful vote on the Committee Draft of the standard taken before the meeting. ISO 26000 is now moving to the status of a Draft International Standard by October 2009.

Members of the ISO WG SR leadership team pictured at the Québec plenary meeting (
from left to right
): Jorge E.R. Cajazeira, Chair; Kristina Sandberg, Secretary; Eduardo Campos de São Thiago, Co-Secretary; Staffan Söderberg, Vice-Chair, with Sophie Clivio, Technical Programme Manager, ISO Central Secretariat. (Photo: Jorge E.R. Cajazeira).

Progress on how to deal with key issues stemming from the ballot comments was the main outcome of.the Québec City meeting which brought together more than 300 experts from 60 countries and around 20 liaison organizations.

ISO 26000 will provide organizations with guidance on incorporating social responsibility into their operations. It is being developed by multi-stakeholder representatives, including a strong participation by developing countries. The number of developing countries in the WG is still increasing – it now includes 221 experts from 63 developing countries and 136 experts from developed countries.

The Québec meeting stakeholder dialogue resulted in moving ISO 26000 closer to completion on complex issues such as barriers to trade, human rights and user friendliness.

Jorge E.R. Cajazeira, Chair of the Working Group Social Responsability, commented: "This was an outstanding meeting which included some 'passionate' debates. Nevertheless, the sense of justice and the fairness has never been closer and has allowed us to move the draft ISO 26000 to another crucial step in its path to publication."

Staffan Söderberg, WG SR Vice Chair added: "All in all, we worked approximately 7 000 man-hours during the week and it is small miracle to see 305 committed SR experts reach consensus on complex issues. We have really been able to enhance agreement on this draft guidance standard on social responsibility and we can see the light at the end of the tunnel."

The meeting was attended by Kevin McKinley, ISO Deputy Secretary-General, who commented: "It was a week-long effort when everything was done beforehand to prepare the stage for fulsome and transparent debate. The Working Group was able to focus intensively on resolving comments and further enhancing consensus on the document".

The 7th plenary meting was hosted by the Bureau de normalisation du Québec (BNQ – the Québec Standardization Bureau) in collaboration with Standards Council of Canada and the Ministère des Relations internationales du Québec (the Québec Ministry of International Relations). Québec Premier, Jean Charest, and the Minister of International Relations, Pierre Arcand, made welcome speeches to the participants.

In the spirit of social responsibility, the meeting was organized to be  a “zero waste–zero carbon” event – the first of its kind for this WG.

The next meeting of the ISO/WG SR will be held in Copenhagen, Denmark, in the first half of 2010. The publication of ISO 26000 is targeted for September 2010.