The much anticipated CSR or SR standard ISO26000 is out and is expected to show the way for the future development of corporate sustainable business development in the years to come.
Even though the journey has been long and troublesome it’s been worth waiting for. There is no doubt that organizations and companies will scrutinize the documents to find inspiration and not least some consistency in the ever elusive CSR discourse. The standard confronts some of the basic problems which face organizations that work with CSR issues, for one the integration of SR into the everyday business activities instead of being an extra add-on which can be added or subtracted from the organizational DNA.
First of all the standard describes a “new” definition of SR as the
“Responsibility of an organization for the impacts of its decisions and activities on society and the environment, through transparent and ethical behaviour that contributes to sustainable development, including health and the welfare of society; takes into account the expectations of stakeholders; is in compliance with applicable law and consistent with international norms of behaviour; and is integrated throughout the organization and practiced in its relationships”
It also tries to give definitions on a lot of the basic issues that most practitioners and scholars alike take for granted such as what is transparency, stakeholder, organisations etc. As time has progressed these concepts have been more and more diluted making them hard to really explain.
The systems works with seven approaches to organisational SR issues. At the centre is organisational Governance which is described as the way that organisations implement the decision that it takes. The central principle of governance is supported the organisations relationship to Human Rights, Labour practices, the Environment, Operating procedures, Consumers and the community which it influences. Each of the areas is described in terms of definitions, its guiding principles, its relation to SR issues and the actions that a given organisation can take.
It is hard to say if this new standard will make a difference in organisations behaviour or if it will make companies behave better in terms of its global impact. One of the things that I think is missing, and you might think that it is wrong to have in a SR standard, is the obligation of a company to produce profit. Companies can have the best SR policy and performance in the world but if it can’t make sales and turn a profit it will cease to exist fairly quickly and that will not be very socially responsible to its employees, suppliers, shareholders or customers.