After six years for development, ISO 26000, the global guidance on social responsibility has finally been launched. Will it be relevant to all activities, in all locations, and of all sizes?
by David Connor is the Founder and Managing Director of Coethica, a UK based Corporate Social Responsibility consultancy. David can be found on Twitter @davidcoethica, through his blog, on Facebook or head over to LinkedIn.
After six years of consultation and development, Geneva saw the launch of ISO 26000 recently.
ISO 26000:2010 Guidance on social responsibility to be exact. Please note the word ‘Guidance‘, that is, this is not a certifiable standard.
In an industry already accelerating toward burgeoning crowds of standards, rankings and frameworks, all of undulating degrees of credibility and usefulness, it feels to me like this new kid on the block will receive a subdued welcome.
According to ISO the aim is to “provide harmonized, globally relevant guidance for private and public sector organizations of all types based on international consensus among expert representatives of the main stakeholder groups, and so encourage the implementation of best practice in social responsibility worldwide.” Which sounds decidedly like death either by committee or all-things-to-everybody-syndrome to me.
I’ve watched the development of ISO 26000 over the six years it has taken to gestate and I hoped and wanted it to help breach the gap between Corporate Social Responsibility and the small business (SME) world. It claims to be relevant to all activities in all locations and of all sizes, although I’ll bet against a multi-stakeholder approach practically appealing to a typical small business entrepreneur. I had even more hope when an interesting mapping exercise carried out back in 2008 that produced ‘How Material is ISO 26000 Social Responsibility to SMEs‘. A poor sample of only 59 small business were engaged for that particular project and whilst it arrived at some accurate conclusions it missed a number of relevant key issues. The problem is that the gap between academic research and the grassroots entrepreneur is as wide as ever, and not enough people in the mix with the skills to authentically translate language and intentions between the sides.
I do offer sympathy for anybody aspiring to tackle the seemingly simple world of SMEs. The scope for variance between micro, family run, small, social enterprises and medium size organisations can be staggering. Multiply that complexity with the agenda that is social responsibility and you are asking for a headache, but we must continue to improve.
ISO 26000′s biggest strength is its biggest weakness. By taking such a holistic approach it runs the risk of being too diluted to offer tangible value beyond what support already exists. Now that it is free to roam in the brutally real world of businesses it will fascinating to see how it morphs into a productive role amongst the CSR family of tools.
Without doubt it has huge value in offering a truly holistic reference perspective for those at the beginnings of a strategic approach to socially responsible business operation.
Watch the You Tube interview video, visit the ISO 26000 website, read it for yourself and tell me how you think ISO 26000 will change the world?
Image and video courtesy of ISO www.iso.org
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