What role does the standard ISO 26000 play in CSR?

Would you like to know more about the importance of ISO standards as part of a CSR strategy? Greenly explains everything in this article.

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To give businesses a kick-start to becoming more sustainable, ISO 26000 provides a framework for strategic thinking so that all types of organisations can adopt a socially responsible approach.

What is ISO 26000?

ISO 26000 provides a summary of the major issues that every organisation must take into account: preservation of the environment, protection of employees, business ethics and respect for human rights, etc.

Definition: ISO 26000 standard

The ISO 26000 standard defines the scope for the implementation of a CSR policy: to develop a precise framework for this concept, it is necessary to refer to an internationally recognised standard. This is where ISO, the International Organisation for Standardisation, comes in, whose authority is recognised in over 164 countries. As such, the structure provides a set of international reference standards covering various fields and sectors such as CSR and, of course, GHG emissions.

In this regard, the ISO 26000 standard is an essential tool to help organisations mitigate their impact on the environment. Developed in 2010, it establishes the fundamental aspects, themes and guidelines of the CSR concept, in line with the definition of the subject issued in 2001 by the European Union.

🖼 Moreover, this standard offers a solid framework to initiate discussion on CSR and develop a relevant strategy.

The core principles of ISO 26000

When developing their action plans, companies can base them on the seven core principles of the ISO 26000 standard (each covering various strategies for action) which are as follows:

  • organisational governance
  • human rights: discrimination, civil and political rights, working rights, etc.
  • working relations and practices: employer/employee relations, social protection, health and safety at work, etc.
  • environmental responsibility: pollution prevention, reduction of GHG emissions, etc.
  • fair operating practices: anti-corruption measures, fair competition, etc.
  • consumer protection: fair marketing practices, protection of consumer health and privacy, etc.
  • contribution to sustainable development: community involvement, job creation, education, etc.

The ISO 26000 standard provides a roadmap in relation to each of these themes, so that companies can conduct a self-assessment and implement improvements. These guidelines apply to several fields and cover the company’s entire scope of operations.

ISO 26000 and certification: how do you obtain ISO 26000?

This question is often asked, but it is incorrectly formulated: you don’t obtain ISO 26000. ISO 26000 does not involve certification, and does not lead to certification. For that, you will need to consider the range of CSR labels.

This standard is comprised of guidelines, not requirements. That is why it does not result in certification, unlike other well-known ISO standards. However, what it does do is to clarify the concept of social responsibility, help companies and organisations convert these principles into action, and share best practices in CSR around the world. It is aimed at organisations of all types, regardless of their activity, size or location.

It does not constitute a management system, but rather an approach whose implementation can be evaluated by independent bodies, which will then award a score... but not certification!

What CSR issues are affected by ISO 26000?

The ISO 26000 standard is intrinsically linked to the CSR approach: the former helps companies to frame, concretise and evaluate the implementation of the latter.

ISO 26000 contributes to sustainable development

With regard to sustainable development (SD), the guidelines laid down by ISO 26000 can be seen as a major contribution to adopting a form of economic growth that is based on a long-term perspective and integrates ecological and social constraints.

💡The concept of Sustainable Development, which covers economic, social and environmental issues, overlaps with most of the themes covered by the ISO 26000 standard.

There are many areas in which sustainable marketing and CSR - and thus the implementation of the ISO 26000 standard - can improve performance.

  • competitive advantage
  • reputation and brand image
  • employee motivation, commitment and productivity
  • capacity to retain or attract customers and employees
  • relations with government, the media, businesses, suppliers etc.
  • the overall vision of owners, investors, financial communities and sponsors

Can ISO 26000 be used to evaluate the effectiveness of a company’s CSR policy?

As mentioned above, the ISO 26000 standard does not provide certification, but the approach can be evaluated by external agents who will award a score to your business. As a result, this provides a reliable and cross-cutting method of evaluating your company's CSR policy against the seven core principles of ISO 26000.

To give credibility to your CSR approach, you can also conduct a self-assessment based on the ISO 26000 criteria. AFNOR Certification, for example, offers an online tool to carry out this self-assessment.

What you can learn from an ISO 26000 assessment:

  • Initial assessment of your CSR commitment on the basis of the seven key criteria of ISO 26000
  • Identification of strengths and areas for continuous improvement
  • Comparison of your Corporate/Organisational Social Responsibility positioning with other companies in your market
  • Companies that are contributing to the achievement of the SDGs will obtain a status report on the integration of the sustainable development goals into their strategy, governance and management system.

What tools are related to the ISO 26000 standard?

The ISO experts have created several documents to help organisations implement and better understand the ISO 26000 standard:

  • A “Communication Protocol” containing appropriate wording for organisations to use when communicating about their ISO 26000 implementation
  • Training materials for ISO 26000 (PowerPoint presentation and training structure [PDF])
  • Documents linking ISO 26000 to the OECD Guidelines and the UN 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda

These documents are available from the ISO website along with other materials, so there is plenty of information to work with. Thus, there should be no more excuses about not understanding the ISO 26000 standard.

Another tool associated with the ISO 26000 standard is the carbon assessment. Conducting a carbon assessment of your company is the first step to implementing a sound CSR approach in full compliance with the ISO 26000 principles. So, what are you waiting for?

How do you implement ISO 26000?

Committing to a CSR approach requires the completion of three stages:

  • the creation of an inventory: identification of critical points and definition of priority actions,
  • the implementation of actions in the organisation,
  • the communication of these actions and commitments to stakeholders.

Is ISO 26000 only for large companies?

This is a very common question, and the short answer is no. The ISO 26000 standard is aimed at all organisations, from start-ups to large groups, with the aim of standardising best CSR practices across the world. You are therefore “eligible” to adopt the ISO 26000 standard. It’s as simple as that.

Where can I find a copy of the ISO 26000 standard?

Now that I know that ISO 26000 can be applied to my organisation, where can I find a copy to help me implement it?

ISO 26000 incorporates a number of documents issued by international organisations (UN, ILO, UNEP, Global Compact, European Union, OECD, etc.) which address CSR issues. You can obtain the standard describing the “Guidance on social responsibility” in PDF format or in paper version from the AFNOR (French Standardisation Association) online store, here is the link to order the ISO 26000 standard. This is the latest edition which is dated October 2020.

Versions and prices:

  • One user - Digital version (PDF and HTML): €269.80 excl. VAT
  • One user - Paper version: €170.76 excl. VAT
  • Three users - Digital version (PDF and HTML): €466.17 excl. VAT

What other standards are related to sustainable development?

The ISO 26000 standard is not the only standard related to SD and CSR issues, far from it.

Sustainable development has three main principles: environment, social and quality. There are three international standards in force for each of these aspects:

  • Environment: the ISO 14001 standard. This standard defines the generic requirements for an environmental management system to identify and control the environmental impact of a company’s activities, products or services.
  • Social: the OHSAS 18001 standard. This standard characterises the generic requirements for an employee health and safety management system to identify and manage working conditions and health risks.
  • Quality: the ISO 9001 standard. This standard aims to identify the generic requirements for a quality management system to ensure and improve customer satisfaction.

Normes et Développement Durable

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