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Guidance on social responsibility and ISO 26000 - What you need to know

Posted by Bertrand Duteil on 06/04/2017

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Over the past years, customers have been paying more and more attention to what they are buying and have been expecting more than a simple product and service quality. They are now more than ever expecting from smaller and larger companies to have a responsible behavior with the environment when it comes to the carbon footprint for example, but also good working conditions for their employees and health safety for their customers.

To answer to this public concern, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) has developed the ISO 26000 - Guidance on social responsibility.
We will today learn more about this standard and how to apply it in your organisation.

What is social responsibility?

Social responsibility defines an ethical framework for organisations, companies and individuals. These entities have the obligation to act for the benefit of the society at large and maintain the balance between the economy and the ecosystems. Social responsibility can take several forms such as environmental efforts, ethical labor practices or community involvement.

ISO 26000 - Guidance on social responsibility

Prepared by ISO and the TMB Working Group on Social Responsibility, the ISO 26000 was first published in November 2010. The goal of the ISO 26000 is to set global sustainable development standards in different fields such as environment protection, workers protection and communities responsibility. Developed as a guidance and not a certification, the ISO 26000 gives key facts, definitions and practices to implement social responsibility in your company.

Valid for companies of all sizes and location, the ISO 26000 guidance provides a full range about social responsibility such as:

  • Concepts and definitions related to social responsibility
  • Background information
  • Principles and Practices
  • Core subject and issues
  • Implementation and promotion throughout the organization
  • Stakeholders identification and engagement
  • Communication about social responsibility performances

Key principles and core subjects

The guidance is based on the seven following key principles on which every social responsible behavior should be established.

  • Accountability
  • Transparency
  • Ethical behavior
  • Respect for stakeholder interests
  • Respect for the rule of law
  • Respect for international norms of behavior
  • Respect for human rights

The ISO 26000, for its part, is structured around the seven following core subjects:

  • Organizational governance
  • Human rights
  • Labor practices
  • Environment
  • Fair operating practices
  • Consumer issues
  • Community involvement and development

ISO 26000 and certification

The ISO 26000 only gives a guidance and does not offer any proper certification. Nevertheless, it is possible to set self-imposed requirements to follow and communicate the results to stakeholders - even if it does not have the value of an international and independently audited ISO certification process. Alternatively, it is possible to get a national certification based on the ISO 26000 guidance such as the XP X 30-027 in France, the BS 8900 in United Kingdom of the IQNet SE 10. You can find the full list of certification alternatives on the ISO 26000 official website.

More information


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Tags: Certifications, tips, ISO standard