Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is an issue that is working its way into many policy debates and corporate agendas. CSR is an evolution in the approach towards sustainable development: while the 1992 Rio Earth Summit focused on environmental management, the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) focused on a broader set of issues, including poverty reduction and social development.
A recent survey by PricewaterhouseCoopers of 140 chief executives of U.S.-based multinational companies found that 85 per cent of them believe that sustainable development will be even more important to their business model in five years than it is today.
What should an ISO standard on social responsibility look like? (PDF - 455 kb)
IISD weighs in on the ISO Conference on Social Responsibility Standardization, June 21-22, 2004.
As many more organizations decide that they must address the principles of CSR, there is a growing need for tools to help them to define and address what CSR means and how to implement it throughout their organizations. At its General Assembly in Stockholm, Sweden, in September 2002, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) decided that the time had come to consider the value of developing management standards on CSR. This resolution recognized the value of the ISO 14001 environmental management system standard in improving the efficiency of corporate environmental management, and built on a report prepared by the ISO Consumer Policy Committee (COPOLCO) (PDF - 573 kb) on the value of CSR standards.
IISD has been invited to serve as a member of The ISO Strategic Advisory Group (SAG) on Corporate Social Responsibility The group's mandate is to discuss and to advise ISO Council on:
whether ISO should develop standards or other documents on the subject of CSR;
what the scope of such work should be; and
the kind of deliverables ISO should develop.
As part of its participation in the work of the SAG on CSR, IISD has committed itself to helping other organizations get involved and become aware of the implications of ISO work in this area. In turn, we have engaged in a partnership with leading NGOs from around the world. These organizations are:
Through their collaboration, this wider group is providing advisory input to IISD while working to build understanding on key issues surrounding ISO's potential entry into CSR. A key objective is for each of the partners to begin to build a debate in their own countries and among their own constituencies on the pros and cons of engagement and the substantive content of any ISO CSR standard.
There is an urgent need to widen discussion and engagement around ISO's role in CSR. Each partner recognizes a need for ISO's engagement in the agenda to be conditional on progress in a number of key areas, including:
equitable representation of civil society from the South and the North—to include voices of community-based organizations that are often excluded from the development of CSR standards;
equitable and effective engagement of producers based in developing countries, particularly small and medium-sized enterprises that are so important in the economies of many low- and middle-income countries;
that any standard should not discriminate against small producers, become a discriminatory barrier to market access or restrict innovation; and
that a standard must be flexible in its ability to respond to the rapid pace of developments in the CSR agenda more broadly, without locking in a "status quo" that is likely to become quickly outmoded.
Together, and with the support Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), IISD has been a major contributor to the development of ISO 26000 Social Responsibility.
Following the launch of the ISO 26000 Working Group for the development of ISO 26000, IISD has been appointed as the convenor of ISO 26000 Task Group 3 on Stakeholder Processes. IISD Tom Rotherham served as convenor of ISO 26000 TG3 from 2004 to 2007.
IISD is also the only organization to formally contribute dedicated research to the ISO 26000 process:
The IISD report The relationship between the ISO 26000 Social Responsibility standard and the WTO Agreement on technical barriers to trade'examines:
whether government or non-governmental bodies of a WTO Member could be required under the TBT harmonisation provisions to use ISO 26000 as a basis for a domestic measure for socially responsible products to the exclusion of other more detailed or more rigorous international instruments; and
what, if anything, could be done in the development process or the language of ISO 26000 to prevent WTO Members from using ISO 26000 as a basis for domestic measures to the exclusion of other more detailed or more rigorous international instruments.
The IISD report How material is ISO 26000 Social Responsibility to Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs)? (PDF - 445 kb) is based on a global survey of SMEs and National Cleaner Production Centres.