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European Commission Backs ISO 26000

The standard serves as guidance for European enterprises to fulfill social responsibility commitments

Published: Wednesday, November 30, 2011 - 14:07

(ISO: Geneva) -- The international standard, ISO 26000—“Guidance on social responsibility” from the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), is one of the three documents being recommended by the European Commission for European enterprises to fulfill their commitment to social responsibility.

The recommendation comes in a recently published communication from the European Commission to governing bodies of the European Union (EU) outlining a renewed strategy for corporate social responsibility (CSR) in the EU from 2011 to 2014.

The Commission intends to monitor the commitments made by European enterprises with more than 1,000 employees to take account of internationally recognized CSR principles and guidelines, as well as the ISO 26000 guidance standard on social responsibility in their operation.

At the same time, the Commission invites all large European enterprises to make a commitment by 2014 to take into account at least one of three sets of principles and guidelines when developing their approach to CSR: ISO 26000, the United Nations Global Compact, or the Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises developed by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

According to the Commission, the motivation for boosting CSR in Europe is that, “The economic crisis and its social consequences have to some extent damaged consumer confidence and levels of trust in business. They have focused public attention on the social and ethical performance of enterprises. By renewing efforts to promote CSR now, the Commission aims to create conditions favorable to sustainable growth, responsible business behavior, and durable employment generation in the medium and long term.”

ISO 26000 was launched on Nov. 1, 2010, and has become one of ISO’s best known and important standards. It provides guidance on social responsibility (SR)—the “SR” designation underlining ISO’s intention that it should be as useful for public-sector and nongovernmental organizations as it is for business corporations.

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 is a voluntary guidance standard that is not to be used for certification.

The guidance in ISO 26000 draws on best practices developed by existing public- and private-sector SR initiatives. It is consistent with and complements relevant declarations and conventions by the United Nations and its constituents, notably the International Labor Organization (ILO), with which ISO established a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to ensure consistency in ISO 26000 with ILO labor standards. ISO also signed MOUs with the United Nations Global Compact Office and the OECD to enhance their cooperation during the development of ISO 26000.

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The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) is the world’s largest developer and publisher of international standards. ISO is a network of the national standards institutes of 162 countries, one member per country, with a Central Secretariat in Geneva, Switzerland, that coordinates the system. ISO is a nongovernmental organization that forms a bridge between the public and private sectors. ISO enables a consensus to be reached on solutions that meet both the requirements of business and the broader needs of society. View the ISO Standards list.