Why does the Danish government endorse the ISO26000 scheme when it is clearly not the intent of ISO

Panorama of ISO 26000

Image via Wikipedia

According to a resent published article on Ethical Corporation it is claimed that “Rogue certification of the new sustainability standards has become a challenge for ISO” and nothing could be truer.

At the same time that the ISO 26000 standard was issued a group of policy makers, companies, CSR professionals and not least Danish Standard held a conference promoting DS26000 a certifiable standard that organizations can use to certify their CSR work. In an almost simultaneous press release from International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) was any claim of certification deemed as in contradiction to the intend of the CR ISO26000 standard itself. The Danish Standard have subsequently revised their communication and conveniently deleted all mention of certification on their site, but this does close get the ‘cat’ back into the bag so to speak.

Ethical Corporation lists a series of issues that they believe a certification of the ISO will bring to the surface. The list includes for example that consulting firms will attempt to make a ‘quick buck’ by offering ISO 26000 certification, which is true for Denmark were Danish Standard offered this type of service. Companies will start asking their suppliers to comply with ISO 26000 as a condition to do business, businesses trying to get favorable attention from consumers by claiming compliance with ISO 26000, and governments trying to use ISO 26000 to develop a social responsibility regulation. All of these behaviors have been seen in relation to other types of ISO standards products.
The standards-setting body of ISO have made it very clear that ISO 26000 was a voluntary guidance standard, not a management system. Since it is not a management system, such as ISO 9000 or ISO 14001, it is not at least in theory be a certifiable system.

“The decision to make ISO 26000 a guidance standard instead of a certifiable system reflected the concerns of industry representatives not to overburden business with costly certification requirements.”, says Paul Hohnen, an independent sustainability consultant who participated in the ISO 26000 negotiations as a representative of the Global Reporting Initiative.

While the Danish standard DS 26000 was only at its initial phases of its marketing process others have come a long way in their efforts to top the market. Such as the Hong Kong-based certification firm Accredited Certification International started openly “awarding” ISO 26000 certification to Chinese companies and announcing their names on its website. 

The question now is what will be the next move of ISO on these rouge operators will they do as they recently claimed in a press release and revoke Danish standard and others right to certify according to ISO. Or will they just ignore these operators because the price of revoking the license will be to great even for ISO. As Robert Frost, says Robert Frost, head of communication at the ISO central secretariat in Geneva puts it “Anyone tempted into buying such a service is wasting their money and risks damaging the credibility of their organisation since ISO has made it quite clear that ISO 26000 is not a certification standard,” and he continues “At this stage, ISO is more interested in stopping the practice than in naming the culprits,”. These comments might give an indication of what ISO intend to do but for many CSR professionals, researchers or just interested stakeholders this is the time when CSR standards are being put to the test and all future standards will in some form be emulated on the basis of the outcome of this discussion.