Get certified to ISO 26000 (part II)

As promised I went to the official opening of DS26000 a Danish interpretation of ISO26000 which you can be certified to. The DS stands for Danish Standard and the organisation have a license to certify ISO products in Denmark. The presentation was situated in the centre of beautiful Copenhagen at the 400 years old observatory. You might be able to remember I had my doubt about the new program and being at the presentation did nit make me less apprehensive.

  • The international ISO organisation does not support any type of certification actually they state very clearly that any claim that one is certified to the ISO26000 standard is contradictory to it wishes. As they state in there press release per 30 of November on their position as:

ISO 26000 has the purpose of globally enhancing social responsibility, sustainability and ethical behaviour in all kinds of organizations

There will be no accredited certification to ISO 26000 as this is contrary to the intent and spirit of the standard

Any claims of certification to ISO 26000 are misleading and are not a demonstration of conformity to ISO 26000

ISO members will report any organizations providing certification to ISO 26000 to the ISO Central Secretariat

ISO shall communicate this to its members who will be requested to communicate within their own countries to regulators, stakeholders and industry.”

I had the opportunity to ask the panel about what they thought of the position of ISO on making a certified standard and they claim that. 1) It is not contradictory to ISO26000. 2) That DS are front runners and others might see the benefit in the long term. 3) That the ISO process was in essence a compromise and that Danish organisations have more freedom to manoeuvre.

  • CSR is in essence a product of globalization. This means in practice that any CSR effort has to meet the needs of the globalised world e.g utilization across borders, regions, cultures, etc. One cannot go against the international norms and standards because the organisations rely on systems that can be used in more than just one reality. If a given system is going to be successful it basically needs to look beyond itself.

In the world of economics international systems have been in place for a long time and even though there are many flaws they do act as a platform for a common language.

  • ISO wants the standard to be in the front end of formulation what the discourse on CSR should look like. But already one month after the initial start-up we see that there are cracks in the interpretation and how the system should be implemented. With DS going their own way and with the emergence of new CR standards like BS8900, it is unlikely that it will have the rigidity needed to stand the test of time. Simply because there is no consistency or common understand of what the basics of the standard is about.

Conclusion:

I think it is a grave mistake to create a certified program and thereby showing how divided the organisations are on the issue of CSR (understood in the broadest possible terms). The ISO 26000 was one of the milestones that many organisations and professionals had been waiting for and the product in it self is not all bad. It is a compromise and there are flaws but it is to be expected and I’m sure that it can be worked out. However, if the debate is going to be about formalities and process like certification, lengths, definitions and claims of legitimacy then we are not doing the world a favour by introducing yet another definition of what good CSR work looks like.

I also wonder what the response is going to be from ISO, if any. If the organisation should live up to their words presented in the press release they would have to sanction DS in some way or another or at least make a public statement about if they support DS in their business venture. It is a clear conflict which needs to be resolved as quickly as possible not for the sake of the organisations but to insure the future success of the ISO26000.

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3 thoughts on “Get certified to ISO 26000 (part II)

  1. Thank you for this update on the ISO 26 000 discussion in Denmark. Really interesting reading. Could you please share your thoughts on why you think is the main drive for wanting a certification…making money? setting own agenda ? what?

    And do you think danish companies will find it necessary to certificate?

    Best regards
    Anja

  2. If one look at the benefits that certification have had on business it is not entirely certain that there is a direct link between the system and the profitability of the company. Most companies get certified because it is a requirement from somewhere in their supply chain. It is a kind of ripple effect that one company, mainly pressured by the consumer, gets certified in order to meet the expectations of the customers. The expectation is the transferred down the chain to sub suppliers and their suppliers and so on.

    Most companies take a conservative approach to certifications. First of all because the benefit is not totally clear in terms of consumer needs and secondly because the administrative costs of certified systems are significant bigger than systems that does not need close monitoring. Your local small supermarket for instance will have around 2000 suppliers providing services and products from uniforms to milk.

    Most consumers do not think much about what kind of management system that has been put in place in order to ensure that there are no unethical products on the shelves. We only react when somebody finds out that there is something going on that we do not agree with, that there is a problem. For a business the risk of exposure should be weighed against the administration that it takes to identify and reduce potential problems. Management of all these subcontractors will for a local grocer would be a humongous task, so most supermarkets have solved this by being part of a group or chain of stores who are also able to provide a more cost efficient service. But even then the potential costs could be too great to counter the possible benefits. The reality is that the ethical consumer is a myth and business can get more out of having a effective and professional crisis team than a comprehensive management system.

    Will Danish companies certify? Some of the leading Danish companies have been involved in the DS26000 project (Novo Nordisk have been chair) and they might be able to drive the process. For me the issue is that CSR is understanding business in a global context with global supply chain as a central issue. If sub-suppliers outside Denmark can’t get certified to ISO 26000 then the system will never become mainstreamed like other management systems such as ISO9000 (Quality management) or ISO14000 (Environmental management). With the announcement of ISO it is not likely that there will such a global certification system in place anytime soon and companies become convinced that there is a real benefit in becoming certified.

    Novo Nordisk have been a front runner within CSR in Denmark for more than a decade and they might be the motor that DS 26000 needs to get off the ground but I think that it will be a rough start. First of all, because Novo do not have a significant supply chain in Denmark they are a international company and they will properly not require the global suppliers to be certified to the system. The second reason is that there is no international consensus among key stakeholders that there should be a certifiable CSR standard of any kind.

  3. Hi,
    I have just been to the Swedish Social responsibility Day 2011, mainly to promote ISO 26000. I was very interesting indeed with various firms, NGOs and consultancy firms talked about their experience with the ISO 26000 process and what they think it might bring to the work ahead. Presenters focused on possibilities, and how to link the ISO 26000 to profit in the firms themselves.

    There is no doubt in Swedish SIS…the standard will NOT be certifiable EVER!…well remains to be seen.

    IN general very positive voices were heard. Most critical was business that had not participated in the process….not that they do not agree with the intentions in the standard, but they think it is rather long.

    I would like to highlight some issues related to the ISO 26000…some thinking my own, some of these thoughts were expressed today:

    SME
    A concern is especially expressed concerning SMEs…how can they keep up with this. Someone was of the opinion that the ISO 26000 should more serve as an inspiration rather than the new bible…or something like that. The question is, however still valid and I much welcome the discussion started on SME and CSR on this site.

    Measuring CSR results
    When talking about results – the focus was exclusively on economic bottom-line results in the firms…does it pay off to do CSR? Of course private enterprises are good at measuring economic profit and analyze the reasons. However, business is not very good at measuring the ‘results’ that customers want to know…”did company X achieve any positive impact in the society?”, “were stakeholders truly involved in the CSR effort? and did the the situation improve for the population where the company is working? how? etc. There is a need to go beyond numbers in these cases and show real effects of intervention…the international cooperation has valuable insight into this challenge that business should use in their future CSR efforts.

    Gender
    the ISO 26000 might have more gender that other standards (most have none)…but gender is presented as a separate issue, and not seen as part of the solution in other CSR issues. E.g. we know that gender equality effort can decrease corruption, increase profitability and could be communicated in the supply chain, gender equality is also central to improve environment as men and women perceive environmental challenges differently…in short gender can be used also as an instrument to improve success in other ISO 26000 areas and should therefore also be seen as part of the solution and methodology for CSR…not a separate and isolated ‘thing’ we also need to deal with. Again – we find more knowledge about gender and the possibilities this perspective give in the international development cooperation than in private enterprises…it is definitely time to intensify cooperation between these two worlds.
    Best regards,
    Anja

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