Can you be certified responsible?

Panorama of ISO 26000

Image via Wikipedia

The new standard from ISO 26000 is out and alive. I have written some words about the system before which are the biggest attempt to create one system for all the CR activities that an organization might engage in. I have some critical remarks on what I see as an attempt to micro manage norms and I believe is in essence a very big compromise. With over 100 pages of standard description it would make even the most committed CR professional dizzy.

There is certainly a need for some standardization within CR reporting no doubt. Just look at the top ten companies in your region and you will with guarantee find ten different ways of reporting. Even the ones using Global Reporting Initiative as a reporting platform have different ways of interpreting the standard even though it might seem very obvious at first.

What I find disturbing is that some organizations are certifying ISO 26000 for companies. So what the problem you might ask? Well if one get certified the auditor signs that a given organizations is living up certain predefined standards and have been audited in doing so. In a CR context this would mean that you are living up to the norms of your stakeholders. Basically CR can be defined as Engaging, Understanding and Complying with the norms of stakeholders and society at large. So with this definition an organization would be in compliance for about one second or less, which would be absurd.

As you might have guessed I do not believe that CR should be certifiable. Companies like Dansk Standard (DS) that claim that they can guide, audit and certify other companies CR efforts are in my eyes not creditable. A company might need outside assistance in their effort to engage with their stakeholders more effectively but certification is not the way to do that. There are several very good consulting companies on the market and they will be able to guide a CR process from start to end but a very few will put their name on the well and certify the company as being social responsible even if it was only a one year certification.

Any organization that I would come across with an DS26000 (the local certifiable version of ISO26000) plank on the wall would in my view be eligible for in-depth scrutiny by all the critical NGO’s and CSO’s that would claim to have a stake in its activities. I’m sure that companies that get that kind of certification have totally missed the point of what social responsibility means and what it entails.

There is a presentation of the DS standard in the start of next month maybe they will be able to convince me that I’m all wrong and of cause there is no issues related to being certifaiable good… I will keep you posted.

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