Alert! Vote on the revision of ISO 26000 and the establishment of an ISO Technical Committee on Social Responsibility is coming up!

Dear members and partners,

The French Standardisation Organisation AFNOR has launched a proposal at the International Standardisation Organisation (ISO)

  • to update ISO 26000 (the ISO standard on responsible business conduct)
  • to establish a new ISO Technical Committee on Social Responsibility
  • to develop ISO standards taking into account the size and the global performance of organisations, based on ISO 26000 chapter 7 “Guidance on integrating social responsibility throughout an organization”.
  • to develop standards on specific issues (e.g. education and culture, community involvement) and tools (e.g. materiality matrix, stakeholders matrix) taking into account the size and sectors of the organisations

Please find the draft proposal attached. Please keep it confidential.

Background

The ISO 26000 Guidance on Social Responsibility was released on 1 November 2010. The ISO 26000 is not a management system standard, nor is it intended or appropriate for certification purposes or for regulatory or contractual use. The scope of ISO 26000 is to give guidance on the underlying principles of social responsibility, recognizing social responsibility and engaging stakeholders (the core subjects and issues pertaining to social responsibility) and on ways to integrate socially responsible behaviour into the organisation. A systematic review of ISO 26000 is taking place every three years, last time in 2017, to establish whether ISO 26000 is UpToDate or needs to be revised. The next systematic review would have been foreseen for October 2020.

What is the IOE position on an update of ISO26000 and the establishment of a Technical Committee?

Despite difficulties, particularly with regard to the misuse of ISO 26000 for certification, the length and complexity of the standard and the fact that the guidance is clearly oriented towards larger organisations, the IOE believes that ISO 26000 has the added value of guiding all kinds of organisation in their social responsibility. Any revision of ISO 26000 would break the hard-won consensus and greatly jeopardise its standing and impact. The danger would be to re-start a new years-long and bureaucratic process with limited leverage of business and which would most like bring highly controversial requirements for companies into the standard as well as turning ISO 26000 potentialy into a certifiable standard.

Even more concerning is the establishment of a Technical Committee (TC) on Social Responsibility to develop all kind of related ISO standards on responsible (business) conduct. The establishment of such a TC will result in a multitude of ISO standards linked to supply chain management, due diligence, reporting with highly controversial provisions, which will confront companies not only with unrealistic expectations, but also increase compliance costs and bureaucracy as well as make them much more vulnerable for campaigns and complaints.

Next Steps

The AFNOR proposal will be sent out for vote to all ISO member organisations (the national standardisation bodies) in the next two weeks. The national ISO members have then three months to vote in favour of the proposal, to abstain or to reject. The ISO decision making body, the ISO TMB, will take a decision on the proposal, based on the vote, in September.

IOE will develop a position paper to facilitate the advocacy work of IOE member federations and circulate as soon as the final AFNOR proposal has been circulated for vote.

IOE will start coordinate with all like-minded stakeholders to create a broad coalition against the AFNOR proposal.

IOE will keep IOE members and partners informed and also engage directly with the ISO Secretariat.

Suggested action by IOE members

The IOE strongly recommends that each member contact its national standards body ASAP to start the advocacy work that ISO 26000 should not be revised and that no Technical Committee on Social Responsibility should be created. The current guidance is still valid and does not need a wholesale revision. The AFNOR proposal should be rejected.

Please don’t hesitate to contact me in case you have any question. We would also appreciate any information on the position of your respective standardisation organisation towards the AFNOR proposal.

Stay safe!

Yours sincerely, 

Matthias Thorns

IOE address

71 Avenue Louis-Casaï
1216 Cointrin
Geneva, Switzerland

T: +41 22 929 00 00
F: +41 22 929 00 01

ioe(at)ioe-emp.com