Written by: Jennifer Stepniowski, Special Projects Manager

It was exciting to hear about the release of a social responsibility standard developed by the International Organization for Standardization. It was also moving to hear that over 400 industry experts and observers met the announcement in May with a standing ovation and a few tears. Stakeholders that included 450 participating experts and 210 observers from 99 ISO member countries and 42 liaison organizations came together to complete the ISO 26000 guideline. The final document was released at the end of October and has already sustained a great deal of support. Clearly, an international standard providing harmonization for social responsibility was something long overdue.

For several years now, Pro QC has used the SA 8000 standard for social responsibility audits. However, we will be incorporating the new ISO guidelines ongoing, which will provide a more comprehensive structure that can be incorporated by both public and private sectors regardless of size. This document also extends the definitions of terms relating to social responsibility and provides a more concise and comprehensive roadmap.

We are often asked why we feel social responsibility is important. Aside from the contribution to sustainable development, effect on reputation and the overall competitive advantage component, we feel ensuring social responsibility throughout the supply chain leads to increased overall performance and effective operations. Case studies of organizations investing in this effort have seen significant financial and operational gains. Undoubtedly, building relationships with stakeholders goes a long way towards a company's success.

It should be noted that ISO 26000 is not for certification and is intended for guidance purposes only. Per the International Organization for Standardization, ISO 26000 will help organizations by providing guidance in the following ways:

Concepts, terms and definitions related to social responsibility
Background, trends and characteristics of social responsibility
Principles and practices relating to social responsibility
Core subjects and issues related to social responsibility
Integrating, implementing and promoting socially responsible behavior throughout the organization and, through its policies and practices, with its sphere of influence
Identifying and engaging with stakeholders
Communicating commitments, performance and other information related to social responsibility

Pro QC will incorporate the contents of the guidance documentation into social responsibility audits. In particular, we will incorporate the components of the seven core subjects of social responsibility. These include:

Human Rights (Due diligence, resolving grievances, civil & political rights, etc.)
Labour Practices (Employment relationships, work conditions, health & safety, etc.)
The Environment (Sustainable resource use, pollution prevention, etc.)
Fair Operating Practices (Anti-corruption, fair competition, respect for property rights, etc.)
Consumer Issues (Sustainable consumption, fair marketing, education & awareness, data protection & privacy, etc.)
Community Involvement and Development (Education & culture, health, social investment, technology development & access, etc.)

Rob Steele, ISO Secretary-General, noted during an interview that ISO 26000's development was one of the biggest subjects that ISO had ever dealt with. Also during the interview, Rob Steele was asked to sum up what practical difference he expected ISO 26000 to make. His response was that the "the standard provides overarching guidance on what is meant by social responsibility, taking in definitions, principles and the core subjects that need to be addressed. ISO 26000 moves from what is a really nice idea to providing something that is pragmatic and which people can actually implement."

At Pro QC, we applaud those that worked on the development of this standard and look forward to incorporating the components into our service offerings, as well as using it internally to ensure our own social responsibility.

The ISO 26000 documentation provides direction for how organizations can implement social responsibility in a strategic and resourceful way. Pro QC assists with this process and can customize a program that meets your requirements. Contact your account manager for additional details or to setup a social audit. We are also able to incorporate social components into systems or other ISO audits per your specific requirements.