The CSR Newsletters are a freely-available resource generated as a dynamic complement to the textbook, Strategic Corporate Social Responsibility: Sustainable Value Creation.

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Monday, January 25, 2010

Strategic CSR - ISO 26000

The article in the url below provides an update on progress towards the ISO 26000 standard on CSR that is due to be finalized in Copenhagen this May:

“As things look now, however, its passage to final approval is far from being a given. … As ISO’s first attempt at a “soft” (ie non-technical and non-management) standard, its goal was from the outset nobly ambitious but fraught with challenges. The draft ISO 26000 standard aims, in effect, to be the first global one-size-fits-all standard, providing guidance on social responsibility to all – and not just business – organisations.”

In spite of considerable progress, the article identifies three issues of contention that have arisen in the final stages of negotiations. The author categorizes these three areas of concern as “content, certification and cost”:

“On the content side, there is a bundle of unresolved issues. These range from concerns about the trade and competitive implications of the standard – the US government sent WTO trade lawyers to the last two negotiating sessions – through to its utility to SMEs and its consistency with existing intergovernmental-agreed norms.

The certification point was an issue of contention from the outset. Some proponents wanted a standard that could support claims of good practice. In the event, it was decided by ISO to develop a guidance standard that is not intended for certification.

The cost issue relates to ISO’s business model, where the organisation’s costs in developing a standard are recouped by sales of the standard. Here, a split has arisen between the ISO and the many participants who want the standard to be available free of charge, in keeping with the goal of maximising its uptake.”

The alternative paths forward lie between the pursuit of an absolute ideal versus the practical need to institutionalize the progress that has already been made:

“After five years of intensive negotiations, energy and budgets are also running low. A push to launch on schedule may increase the risk of a “no” vote by ISO member national standards bodies and probably create some media attention. But it is not clear whether most participants have the will to engage in a fundamental review of the text.”

Take care

Bill Werther & David Chandler
Strategic Corporate Social Responsibility
© Sage Publications, 2006

ISO 26000’s long and winding road
The long awaited ISO 26000 international standard on social responsibility is due to be launched this year. Paul Hohnen argues that its clear passage is far from certain
Paul Hohnen
June 7, 2009