ISO 26000: The basics of social responsibility

ISO 26000
April 8th, 2021
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ISO 26000 is a voluntary international standard that provides organisations with guidelines on social responsibility.

In this post, you'll find out about:

The definition of ISO 26000

Launched in November 2010, ISO 26000 is the first real international standard on the subject of social responsibility. The standard was developed over five years of negotiations and represents a consensus between many different stakeholders across the world.

These guidelines aim to help organisations in both the public and private sectors, regardless of size and location, to translate principles of social responsibility into effective actions. Unlike management system standards, such as ISO 14001 or ISO 9001, which are subject to certifications and can supplement socially responsible approaches, ISO 26000 serves as a set of guidelines rather than requirements, meaning the standard is not intended for certification purposes.

ISO 26000 outlines the principles and themes that social responsibility encompasses, in line with international founding texts such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Labour Organization's fundamental conventions. In particular, the standard clarifies the concept of social responsibility, defined as "the responsibility of an organisation for the impacts of its decisions and activities on society and the environment, through transparent and ethical behaviour".

The 7 core subjects of ISO 26000

In article 6, ISO 26000 invites organisations to structure their approach around 7 interlinked core subjects relating to social responsibility. This enables them to identify any relevant areas of action that they can then draw from to determine their priorities and implement measures.

Each core subject is divided into different areas of action:

  • Organisational governance 
  • Human rights: due diligence, avoidance of complicity, discrimination, civil rights etc.
  • Labour practices: social protection, social dialogue, health and safety at work etc.
  • The environment: prevention of pollution, sustainable resource use, protection of the environment and biodiversity etc.
  • Fair operating practices: anti-corruption, fair competition, respect for property rights etc.
  • Consumer issues: protecting consumers' health and safety, data protection and privacy, education and awareness etc.
  • Community involvement and development: community involvement, employment creation and skills development, social investment etc.

The benefits of ISO 26000

As stated in the official document's introduction, "An organisation's commitment to the welfare of society and the environment has become a central criterion in measuring its overall performance and its ability to continue operating effectively".  

By implementing ISO 26000, organisations can positively influence their reputation, their competitive advantage, their ability to attract and retain employees and clients, their relationships with various stakeholders (investors, public authorities, suppliers and even the media), and so on.

Strengthening social responsibility by applying the ISO 26000 standard is without doubt a real investment in an organisation's overall performance.

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