The way is now open for the publication of ISO 26000, which gives guidance on social responsibility, as an International Standard by the end of year.

The multi-stakeholder ISO Working Group on Social Responsibility (ISO/WG SR), which includes experts and observers from 99 ISO member countries and 42 public and private sector organizations, approved the draft ISO 26000 for processing as a Final Draft International Standard (FDIS) at its 8th plenary meeting on 17-21 May 2010 in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Members of the ISO WG SR leadership team pictured at the Copenhagen plenary meeting (from left to right): Kristina Sandberg, Secretary; Jorge E.R. Cajazeira, Chair; Staffan Söderberg, Vice-Chair; Eduardo Campos de São Thiago, Co-Secretary; with Sophie Clivio, Technical Programme Manager, ISO Central Secretariat. (Photo: Jorge E.R. Cajazeira)
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The document is now being edited to take account of the consensus reached at the Copenhagen meeting, prior to which 2 482 written comments had been received for processing. ISO 26000 will be released for a two-month FDIS vote by ISO member countries in August-September, followed by publication as a fully fledged ISO International Standard by November.

The ISO/WG SR has a joint leadership provided by the ISO members for Brazil (ABNT) and Sweden (SIS). Its Chair, Jorge E.R. Cajazeira, commented after the successful conclusion to the Copenhagen meeting: "ISO 26000 will provide organizations in both public and private sectors with a new paradigm for helping them to operate in the socially responsible way that society now expects. It will assist them in achieving long-term economic benefits with minimal social costs and minimal harmful impacts on the environment."

Vice-Chair, Staffan Söderberg, declared: "It was a truly heart warming moment when the 100 pages finally found consensus and the 400 experts and observers stood up and clapped their hands. The ISO Working Group on Social Responsibility has delivered a fantastic result and it is time to hand over this valuable guidance standard to the market and all organizations out there."

ISO Secretary-General Rob Steele, speaking at the meeting's opening ceremony, paid tribute to the ISO/WG SR for its efforts which included eight meetings since the first in 2005 and the treatment of more than 25 000 comments.

He underlined the value of the broad stakeholder input that has gone into developing ISO 26000, including the significant input by developing countries: "One of the key arguments that resulted in the recommendation to proceed with the development of ISO 26000 was that such a broad subject would benefit from the widest participation possible and that using the ISO standards development process would maximize this involvement. One of the key groups advocating this argument was developing countries, and the point resonated with everyone."

He underlined that ISO 26000 is a guidance standard, not a specification document intended for third party certification, and that ISO would be vigilant in seeing that this was respected. The ISO Secretary-General reiterated the market expectations for ISO 26000, which include:

  • Global agreement on SR definitions, and on the principles of SR
  • Global agreement on the core subjects of SR
  • Guidance on how to integrate SR throughout an organization.

The meeting was hosted by the ISO member for Denmark, Danish Standards, and the Danish Ministry of Economic and Business Affairs, whose Minister, Brian Mikkelsen, commented: "We have today achieved broad global support on the meaning and practices of social responsibility. This is a huge step forward. Companies and organizations around the world will have a mutual starting point for working with social responsibility."

  • For more information on ISO 26000 and the ISO Working Group on Social Responsibility, see the dedicated Website: www.iso.org/sr. This Website includes documents giving the background to ISO’s SR initiative, documents and press releases on the progress of the work and how it is being carried out, the membership and structure of the WG SR, how to participate in the development of ISO 26000, a newsletter, development timeframe, FAQs, contacts and other information. Many are available in several languages.
  • Working documents including the draft standard can be accessed at www.iso.org/wgsr.