There's no need for an ISO standard on the hot topic of social responsibility, according to a position statement issued by the American Society of Safety Engineers.

ISO earlier this year decided to move ahead with the standard, and has now issued to its member bodies a new work item proposal to guide development of the SR standard. Members will have three months to vote on the proposal, which will be accepted if approved by a majority of the members voting and a commitment by at least five members to participate actively in the work.

The American National Standards Institute is one of the ISO members that will vote on the proposed guidance document, and ASSE stated its position in a letter to ANSI recommending the organization to vote against the proposal.

"ASSE believes that a standard on social responsibility would be difficult to develop, implement, advocate, and finally ensure compliance by ISO," wrote ASSE President Gene Barfield.

"We believe the current structure of a combination of SH&E policies, procedures and practices, an individual company's business culture, and enforcement by state and national governmental agencies probably create a more viable functioning of social responsibility."

ASSE might be fighting an uphill battle. In a recent message to ISO, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan applauded ISO's decision to develop a standard on social responsibility, describing it as "an initiative which dovetails well with the universal principles of the UN Global Compact on human rights, labor conditions, the environment and anti-corruption."

ISO expects the SR standard to be completed for publication in 2007.

Safety and health pros take note: Documents that ISO will consider and possibly build into the SR standard include the ISO 14000 environmental management standard and the OHSAS 18001 standard on occupational health and safety management systems.