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What role does the ISO 26000 standard play in CSR?

In this article, we’ll explore what ISO 26000 is, and how companies can implement an effective CSR strategy that aligns with the standard.
Business
2023-07-20T00:00:00.000Z
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ISO 26000 serves as an international standard designed to assist organisations in effectively evaluating and addressing their social responsibilities. It helps them identify and prioritise what is relevant and significant to their mission, vision, operations, and processes. Additionally, it encourages them to consider the impact of their actions on customers, employees, communities, stakeholders, and the environment.

👉 In this article we’ll explore what ISO 26000 is, and how companies can implement an effective CSR strategy that aligns with the standard. 

What is ISO 26000?

Unlike some other well-known ISO (International Organization for Standardisation) standards, ISO 26000 cannot be certified. Launched in 2010, the ISO 26000 standard provides valuable guidance rather than enforceable requirements. Its purpose is to assist businesses and organisations in understanding and implementing social responsibility principles effectively, regardless of their activity, size, or location. In essence: it serves as a global resource by sharing best practices related to social responsibility.

👉 The European Commission, in its 2001 Green Paper, defined Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) as a “concept whereby companies integrate social and environmental concerns in their business operations and in their interaction with their stakeholders on a voluntary basis.”

The development of ISO 26000 involved extensive negotiations spanning five years, engaging a multitude of stakeholders from around the globe. Government representatives, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), industry experts, consumer groups, and labour organisations all played a vital role in shaping the standard. This collaborative effort ensured that ISO 26000 represents an international consensus, reflecting the different perspectives and expertise of these stakeholders.

By incorporating the insights and input of such a broad range of representatives, ISO 26000 establishes a robust foundation for organisations to navigate the complex landscape of social responsibility. It clarifies the concept of social responsibility, enables organisations to translate its principles into effective actions, and fosters the sharing of globally recognised best practices.
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The core principles of ISO 26000

The ISO 26000 standard encompasses seven core principles that serve as a foundation for companies to develop their action plans. Each principle addresses various strategies for action, providing guidance for responsible and sustainable practices:

  • Organisational governance - This principle focuses on promoting transparent and accountable decision-making processes within organisations, encouraging integrity and ethical behaviour.
  • Human rights -  This covers a wide range of human rights aspects, including combating discrimination, upholding civil and political rights, ensuring fair working rights, and fostering equal opportunities for all individuals.
  • Working relations and practices - This principle emphasises the importance of maintaining positive employer-employee relations, promoting social protection measures, ensuring workplace health and safety, and fostering a positive work environment.
  • Environmental responsibility - This principle emphasises the significance of environmental stewardship, including measures for pollution prevention, sustainable resource management, energy efficiency, waste reduction, and the reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
  • Fair operating practices - This principle focuses on promoting fair business practices, such as implementing anti-corruption measures, ensuring fair competition, respecting intellectual property rights, and promoting responsible marketing and advertising.
  • Consumer protection - This emphasises the importance of protecting consumer rights, including fair marketing practices, product safety, privacy protection, and providing accurate and transparent information to consumers.
  • Contribution to sustainable development - This principle encourages organisations to actively contribute to sustainable development in their communities and beyond. This can include initiatives such as community involvement, job creation, the support of education and training, and the promotion of social welfare.

The ISO 26000 standard provides a roadmap for each of these seven principles, enabling companies to conduct self-assessments and identify areas for improvement. These guidelines are applicable to various fields and cover the entire scope of an organisation's operations, ensuring a comprehensive approach to social responsibility.

By aligning with the core principles of ISO 26000, companies can enhance their overall sustainability performance, foster positive stakeholder relationships, and contribute to the betterment of society and the environment.

infographic on ISO 26000infographic on ISO 26000

How does an organisation implement ISO 26000?

As we’ve already discussed, implementing ISO 26000 does not involve certification or lead to certification. Unlike other well-known ISO standards, ISO 26000 is not designed for certification purposes. Instead, it provides guidelines to assist organisations in understanding and implementing social responsibility principles effectively.

ISO 26000 operates as a valuable tool for clarifying the concept of social responsibility, helping companies and organisations translate these principles into actionable strategies, and facilitating the sharing of best practices in CSR globally. It is applicable to organisations of all types, regardless of their activity, size, or location.

👉 It is important to note that ISO 26000 is not a management system but rather an approach that can be evaluated by independent bodies. Organisations can consider other certification options and labels to demonstrate their commitment to CSR. For example, in the UK, the BS 8900 certification provides a framework for integrating sustainable development into business practices. It encompasses economic, social, and environmental aspects, enabling organisations to effectively manage their sustainability performance.

Assessments such as this can provide an evaluation or score based on the organisation's implementation of the ISO 26000 standard. However, it is essential to emphasise that ISO 26000 evaluations do not result in certification.

👉 To find out more about implementing a CSR approach in your company, why not read our article.

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ISO 2600 in more detail…

The ISO 26000 standard and the CSR approach are closely interconnected. ISO 26000 plays a crucial role in assisting companies in planning, implementing, and evaluating the effectiveness of CSR practices.

ISO 26000 and sustainable development

The guidelines provided by ISO 26000 make a significant contribution to embracing sustainable development (SD), which entails an economic growth approach that considers long-term perspectives and integrates ecological and social considerations.

The concept of sustainable development, encompassing economic, social, and environmental aspects, aligns closely with the themes covered by ISO 26000. As a result, the implementation of the ISO 26000 standard can have a positive impact on various areas, leading to improved company performance.

By adopting sustainable marketing and CSR practices in line with ISO 26000, organisations can expect to: 

  • Gain a competitive advantage; 
  • Enhance their reputation and brand image; 
  • Boost employee motivation, commitment, and productivity; 
  • Attract and retain customers and talented employees;
  • Strengthen relationships with stakeholders such as government, media, businesses, and suppliers; 
  • Align the overall vision of the organisation with the expectations of owners, investors, financial communities, and sponsors.
Implementing ISO 26000 and embracing sustainable development principles can create a positive business environment that considers social and environmental factors alongside economic considerations, leading to long-term success and resilience.

ISO 26000 and the evaluation of a company’s CSR policy

While ISO 26000 does not provide certification, external agents can evaluate a company’s CSR approach and assign a score based on the seven core principles of ISO 26000. This evaluation offers a reliable and comprehensive method for assessing your company's CSR policy.

To enhance the credibility of your CSR approach, you can also conduct a self-assessment using the ISO 26000 criteria. Through an ISO 26000 assessment, you can gain valuable insights, including:

  • Initial assessment of your CSR commitment based on the seven key criteria of ISO 26000.
  • Identification of strengths and areas for continuous improvement within your CSR practices.
  • Comparison of your Corporate Social Responsibility positioning with other companies operating in your market.
  • Status report on the integration of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) into your company's strategy, governance, and management system - particularly if your organisation is actively contributing to the achievement of the SDGs.

By leveraging ISO 26000 assessments, you can obtain an objective evaluation of your CSR efforts, identify areas for enhancement, and benchmark your performance against industry peers. This process enables you to align your CSR practices with international standards and demonstrate your commitment to sustainable and responsible business practices.

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What tools are related to the ISO 26000 standard?

The experts at ISO have created several documents to help organisations implement the ISO 26000 standard. These resources include:

  • Communication Protocol - This document provides organisations with appropriate wording to effectively communicate about their ISO 26000 implementation.
  • Training Materials - ISO has developed training materials, including PowerPoint presentations and training structures in PDF format, to facilitate knowledge transfer and skill development related to ISO 26000.
  • Documents Linking ISO 26000 - These materials establish connections between ISO 26000 and other important frameworks, such as the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises and the UN 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda.

These valuable resources, along with other materials, are readily available on the ISO website. They provide organisations with comprehensive information and guidance to support their understanding and implementation of the ISO 26000 standard.

ISO 2600 and emissions reductions

One of the core principles of ISO 26000 is Environmental Responsibility. This principle highlights the importance of environmental stewardship and encourages organisations to prioritise actions that promote sustainability, including a reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Organisations are encouraged to measure, monitor, and reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. This involves measuring emissions, setting targets, and adopting carbon footprint reduction strategies.

This is why conducting a carbon assessment for your company is an essential initial step towards implementing a robust CSR approach aligned with the principles of ISO 26000. A carbon assessment will allow you to understand and quantify your company's carbon footprint, identifying areas where emissions can be reduced and sustainability practices can be enhanced.

By conducting a carbon assessment, you can gain valuable insights into your company's environmental impact, paving the way for informed decision-making and targeted actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It demonstrates a company’s commitment to environmental responsibility and aligns with the Environmental Responsibility principle of ISO 26000.

👉 Initiate a carbon assessment for your company with Greenly, a specialised carbon accounting company. Our expertise and solutions streamline the process, allowing you to measure and understand your carbon footprint accurately. Take action now to demonstrate sustainability commitment and contribute to a greener future.

How do you implement ISO 26000?

Embarking on a CSR approach entails three key stages that companies should follow:

  • Inventory Creation - Start by identifying critical areas and defining priority actions through a comprehensive inventory. This stage involves assessing the organisation's impact, risks, and opportunities related to CSR, enabling informed decision-making.
  • Action Implementation - Once the inventory is established, it's time to implement actions within the company. This stage focuses on executing the identified priority actions, incorporating sustainable practices, and integrating CSR principles into day-to-day operations.
  • Stakeholder Communication - To ensure transparency and accountability, organisations should look to communicate their actions and commitments to stakeholders. This stage involves sharing information about CSR initiatives, progress, and achievements with relevant stakeholders, thereby fostering trust and engagement.

By following these three stages organisations can effectively commit to a comprehensive CSR approach and make a positive impact in their operations and relationships with stakeholders.

Note: The ISO 26000 standard is aimed at organisations of all sizes - from start-ups to large corporations.

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Where can the ISO 26000 guidance be found? 

ISO 26000 incorporates various documents from renowned international organisations such as the UN, ILO, UNEP, UN Global Compact, European Union, and OECD, among others, which provide valuable insights on CSR topics. To access the standard detailing the "Guidance on social responsibility," you can obtain the PDF format of the document on the ISO website, here.

What other standards are related to sustainable development?

While ISO 26000 is an important standard related to sustainable development (SD) and corporate social responsibility (CSR), it is not the sole standard addressing these issues. 

Sustainable development encompasses three core principles: environment, social, and quality. For each of these aspects, there are specific international standards in place:

  • Environment - ISO 14001 standard establishes requirements for an environmental management system. It enables companies to identify and control their environmental impact, covering activities, products, and services.

👉 To learn more about ISO 14001, please read our article on the standards. 

  • Social - The OHSAS 18001 standard focuses on employee health and safety management systems. It outlines requirements for identifying and managing working conditions and health risks within organisations.
  • Quality - The ISO 9001 standard defines requirements for a quality management system. Its objective is to ensure and enhance customer satisfaction through effective quality management practices.

👉 To find out more about ISO 9001, why not check out our article here

These standards provide organisations with guidance and frameworks to address environmental, social, and quality aspects of their operations. They complement the ISO 26000 standard by providing more specific requirements and guidelines in these particular areas.

By considering these standards collectively, organisations can develop comprehensive approaches to sustainable development, corporate social responsibility, and quality management, aligning their practices with recognised international benchmarks.

What about Greenly?

At Greenly we can help you to assess your company’s carbon footprint, and then give you the tools you need to cut down on emissions. Why not request a free demo with one of our experts - no obligation or commitment required. 

If reading this article has inspired you to consider your company’s own carbon footprint, Greenly can help. Learn more about Greenly’s carbon management platform here.

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