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.


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.

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.