But how will organizations welcome this new standard? Will they be able to recognize the distinctiveness of ISO 26000 in relation to other standards or guidelines that address social responsibility?
Here are a few elements that are likely to encourage organizations to adopt the standard:
- ISO, as an international body, has a well-established reputation and credibility worldwide. Logically, organizations will be drawn by this image and will want to be associated with it. On its website, ISO addresses some advantages related to the standard’s implementation.
- The new standard was developed by an international consensus. Many other specialized tools or guidelines in sustainable development were not built this way. In fact, ISO 26000 promotes the convergence of visions and can be applied in a variety of contexts.
- The ISO 26000 guidelines provide an opportunity to review the principles and objectives of social responsibility in a concise manner and to move to a more pragmatic view that we can actually implement.
However, several factors may create a certain reluctance to work with ISO 26000:
- As specified by ISO in its publication, ISO 26000 is not comparable to management system standards and is not intended for certification. In other words, nobody will be able to verify the implementation of the standard within organizations or issue a compliance certificate.
- The standard does not provide a detailed guide for implementing operational measures because it targets a very broad scope and organizations of all types. So there is a lot of work to do within the organizations in order to be able to reflect the norm in their daily practices.
- As ISO 26000 is not intended to replace other tools and standards in social responsibility, organizations must be vigilant in their choice of approaches and have to be ready to work with different tools with different levels of adequacy.
Since its publication last fall, several communications abuses have been made by companies regarding adherence to the standard, as well as some attempts by consulting firms to offer certification, although this practice is strictly forbidden by ISO.
A central question arises from these observations: How will we be able to measure the success or failure of the integration of ISO 26000? Can we rely on the number of organizations that will refer to the norm in their communications, or will we instead try to observe the improvement of business practices in terms of social responsibility over time?
Caroline Chaumont, Borealis