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Quality Digest

Standards

ISO Plans to Produce Social Responsibility Guidelines

Published: Thursday, July 8, 2004 - 22:00

The International Organization for Standardization will develop a standard for social responsibility, although it will not be intended for formal certification.

The decision was made at a senior ISO management meeting this June in Stockholm, following an international conference in the Swedish capital. The conference provided a platform for stakeholders to give their views on whether ISO should address the social responsibility of organizations, and, if so, what form that assessment would take.

Stakeholder feedback was overwhelmingly positive for ISO to develop social responsibility guidelines. Because the feedback was so supportive, ISO decided a further feasibility study was unnecessary and the work should be undertaken immediately.

“ISO’s decision is based on a thorough analysis of trends and initiatives relating to social responsibility and the active involvement of all interested groups of stakeholders,” says ISO Secretary-General Alan Bryden. “The consensus achieved on the way forward for an ISO contribution illustrates the broadening of the scope of our work and the recognition that today, ISO not only provides a growing portfolio of technical standards, but may also supply solutions and guidance on social and environmental issues in the global economy. This new venture is obviously of great interest to stakeholder groups such as consumers, NGOs, labor and regulators whose participation and input ISO both needs and values.”

To develop the standard, ISO will set up a new working group answering directly to its technical management board. The board will oversee the activities of the organization’s 186 standards-developing technical subcommittees. It has already formed a task force to propose the terms of reference and operating processes for the group’s consideration at the TMB meeting in September.

Currently, ISO’s worldwide national standards institute members are asked to submit candidates for a dual leadership and secretariat to the SR working group no later than Aug. 15. Group members will be appointed by ISO members from all stakeholder categories, although related international and broadly-based regional organizations will also appoint members.

ISO intends the new guidelines to add value to—but not replace—existing intergovernmental SR agreements such as the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, those adopted by the International Labor Organization and other UN conventions.

The ISO SR conference drew 355 participants from 66 countries, including 33 developing countries. The attendees represented all the principal stakeholder groups: business, government, labor, consumers, international and nongovernmental organizations. ISO’s advisory group on social responsibility—established in 2003—provided the bulk of the discussion at the conference, which consisted of its extensive report on worldwide SR initiatives and the identification issues that should be addressed in ISO’s work on SR.

“The extent to which the issues raised by the different stakeholder groups at the conference mirrored those identified in the advisory group’s report confirms the value of the work it has carried out for ISO,” comments ISO Deputy Secretary-General Kevin McKinley. “Now it is up to ISO to address these issues and face the challenge of developing guidelines that benefit all the stakeholders in social responsibility.”

For more information, go to www.iso.org.

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