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Social Responsibilities

With some 300 participants and more than 50 speakers from the private and public sectors, including national standards bodies, the ISO 26000 forum organized by ISO in November was opportunity to share experience, best practice and lessons learned, as well as highlight areas for improvement. The forum’s objective was to provide ideas to ISO on the use and possible future of ISO 26000. Amendments were not introduced to the standard, or add new projects to ISO’s work program, but participants’ ideas were shared with the former joint secretariat of the ISO Working Group on Social Responsibility for advice. “All ISO standards are developed following the principles of transparency, openness, impartiality and consensus, effectiveness and relevance, coherence, and following the development dimension. ISO 26000 is no exception,” declared ISO Secretary-General Rob Steele. Changing world Resulting from the efforts of over 400 experts and 200 observers from 99 countries and 42 international organizations, ISO 26000 was developed with a wide stakeholder, regional, and gender balance. The guidance standard is not a management system, or intended for third-party certification, but “It’s good enough to help meet the economic, environmental and societal challenges of a changing world,” said Jorge Cajazeira, chairman of the ISO 26000 PPO. Keynote speaker, Carlos Alberto Griner, Suzano Pulp and Paper chief human resources officer explained why they use ISO 26000: “We operate in a complex environment, in multiple cities, in a diverse context, and believe that the best way to keep our business running is to balance the three aspects of the triple bottom line [economic, environmental and social sustainability]. When constructing one of the world’s most modern eucalyptus market pulp mills in the poorest state in Brazil, the company opted for working with the local community, rather than bringing a workforce and talent from outside. The result was that 60 percent of the people involved were from the region, and more than 5,600 professionals were trained.” “Listening to what society is doing is key to taking sustainable actions in the future,” he said, “and ISO 26000 helped us do just that.” Growing popularity A Google search of ISO 26000 today returns over two million results. Kristina Sandberg, ISO 26000 PPO Secretary, highlighted the growing interest of ISO 26000 around the world. A survey conducted by the PPO showed that at least 60 countries have adopted the standard, and 20 more are in the process of reviewing for adoption. In addition, the text is now available in 22 languages. Staffan Söderberg, Vice-Chair of ISO 26000 PPO, drew attention to how consultants, National Standards Bodies (NSBs), policy makers and various organizations are using ISO 26000 in activities, policy guidance and numerous documents promoting social responsibility. In academic circles, 3,000 articles and 50 books, as well as many doctorates, are based on the standard. Various companies have already implemented the standard such as Maersk, NovoNordisk, TeliaSonera, HSB, HM, Suzano, Petrobras, Veolia, Air France, Toshiba, AB Volvo, Takeda, Panasonic, British Telecom, TRS, and Toyota. During the conference, contributors agreed that use of ISO 26000 promoted transparency and communication, and helped build trust with stakeholders. For example, following the standard, the Swedish housing cooperation (HSB) trained all employees on human rights, and engaged in dialogue with local stakeholders. Cecilia Lööf, PR manager at HSB’s Göterborg-Division, said that the latter actually helped complete projects faster, concluding that, “Working with ISO 26000 can also result in business development and good economic results.” Participants agreed that ISO represents consensus on what we mean by social responsibility. Dwight Justice, Policy Advisor at the International Trade Union Confederation, said that the standard was the “most comprehensive and concise guidance of what an organization should do – for that reason I think it’s extremely useful.” It constitutes a “very concise agreement of what responsible behavior is for organizations.” Panelists demonstrated how ISO 26000 had helped organizations protect biological diversity, promote non-discrimination, train workforces, shape public policy and much more, including some challenges. Clearly, there is a trend towards increasing national adoption and interest, but perhaps the biggest challenge we face is that of expectations: do all organizations really want a sustainable world.
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