November 1st will see the launch of one of the most eagerly awaited ISO International Standards of recent years,ISO 26000:2010, Guidance on social responsibility, which provides guidance to both business and public sector organizations on social responsibility (SR), according to an International Organization for Standarization (ISO) press release.

ISO 26000 is being launched at an event in Geneva, Switzerland, at which ISO Secretary-General Rob Steele has invited members of the working group of experts that developed the standard, including the joint leadership — Chair, Jorge E.R. Cajazeira, and Vice-Chair, Staffan Söderberg, provided respectively by the ISO members for Brazil (ABNT) and Sweden (SIS). Representatives of potential users of the standard will also attend, including from industry and governments who have expressed great interest and support for an international guidance standard on social responsibility.

Rob Steele comments: “The publication of ISO 26000 is eagerly awaited by organizations worldwide, whether they are business enterprises, or public sector organizations. Operating in a socially responsible manner is no longer an option. It is becoming a requirement of society worldwide. What makes ISO 26000 exceptional among the many already existing social responsibility initiatives is that it distils a truly international consensus on what social responsibility means and what core subjects need to be addressed to implement it. In addition, it is based on broad stakeholder input, including developing countries, business, government, consumers, labor, nongovernmental organizations and others.”

According to the standard, the perception and reality of an organization's performance on social responsibility can influence, among other things:
  • Competitive advantage
  • Reputation
  • Ability to attract and retain workers or members, customers, clients or users
  • Maintenance of employees' morale, commitment and productivity
  • View of investors, owners, donors, sponsors and the financial community
  • Relationship with companies, governments, the media, suppliers, peers, customers and the community in which it operates.
ISO 26000, of which development began in 2005, is the work of the ISO Working Group on Social Responsibility (ISO/WG SR) whose membership was the largest and the most broadly based in terms of stakeholder representation of any single group formed to develop an ISO standard.

Six main stakeholder groups were engaged: industry; government; labor; consumers: nongovernmental organizations; and service, support, research and others, as well as a geographical and gender-based balance of participants. It was made up of experts from ISO members (national standards bodies – NSBs) and from liaison organizations (associations representing business, consumers or labor, or inter-governmental or nongovernmental organizations).

At the last meeting of the ISO/WG SR, in July 2010, there were 450 participating experts and 210 observers from 99 ISO member countries and 42 liaison organizations involved in the work.

ISO 26000 provides guidance for all types of organization, regardless of their size or location, on:
  1. Concepts, terms and definitions related to social responsibility
  2. Background, trends and characteristics of social responsibility
  3. Principles and practices relating to social responsibility
  4. Core subjects and issues of social responsibility
  5. Integrating, implementing and promoting socially responsible behavior throughout the organization and, through its policies and practices, within its sphere of influence
  6. Identifying and engaging with stakeholders
  7. Communicating commitments, performance and other information related to social responsibility.
ISO 26000 is a voluntary guidance standard that is not to be used for certification, unlike ISO 9001:2008 (quality management) and ISO 14001:2004 (environmental management) which can be used for certification