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What Happens with an International Social Responsibility Standard?

You know how international consensus standards can influence your organization and the regulations and stakeholders you deal with. Consider the impact of the ISO 9000 quality standards and the ISO 14000 environmental management standards. Next up: a proposed ISO 26000 standard on social responsibility.

The 109-page draft from the International Organization for Standardization is wide-ranging, covering organizational ethics and governance, transparency, human rights, labor practices, the environment, consumer issues and community involvement. Here, you’ll find lots of best practices and guidance, but, as the draft moves toward review and approval, and then potential adoption by organizations and countries, the stakes rise.

Included among the draft recommendations are the following stipulations:

1. An organization should, “at appropriate intervals,” report on its social responsibility performance to affected stakeholders.
2. Reporting should be “balanced,” including not omitting “relevant negative information concerning the impacts of an organization’s activities.”
3. Social responsibility reports and claims should be independently verifiable.
4. Organizations should seek ongoing dialogue with their stakeholders.
5. Organizations should develop mechanisms for resolving conflicts or disagreements with stakeholders.

As a voluntary consensus standard, it won’t be prescriptive or mandatory, but it will be influential, global and widely referenced by friends and foes alike.

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