The future International Standard ISO 26000, approved by 2/3 of countries

February 22, 2010 EcoVadis

The future International Standard on Corporate Social Responsibility, has reached an important phase in its development on 14.2.2010 . More than 67% of the countries participating in ISO have voted in favor of the standard and unless major surprise should reach the Final Draft International Standard (FDIS) stage.

The final stage wil take place in Copenhagen (again! hoping that this standard will not suffer the same fate as the international treaty on GHG emissions) on May 15th 2010, where review of the final comments will take place, in order to allow a final vote during the summer and the release of ISO 26000 as an International Standard.

What does this mean for Procurement Exectutives involved in Sustainable Procurement?

We believe that ISO 26000 will not be the magic bullet which will suddenly replace all CSR initiatives in the Supply Chain. First of all this standard will not be “certifiable”: It is not intended or appropriate for certification purposes or regulatory or contractual use. It will therefore not be possible to mandate “ISO 26000” compliance as a qualification criterias, the way some companies are doing it with ISO 14000, or ISO 9000. Furthermore, ISO 26000 is the result of long discussions, and in order to achieve a consensus with emerging countries the working group had to lower the requirements in terms of social and environmental. ISO 26000 will therefore represent a “minimum acceptable level” and could not be used as a “best practice” by organizations.

Despite those limitation ISO 26000 should represent a major step forwards for all organizations involved into CSR. It will allow executives to benefit from a framework to clearly define the topics which should be covered in CSR and the boundaries. It could for example be used as a reference in Sustainable Procurement Charter (ISO 26000 is compatible with existing conventions by United Nations and its constituents, such as ILO, Global Compact and OECD). The dialogue between Buyers and Suppliers on CSR is often compromised by lack of understanding in basic CSR concepts : ISO 26000, which will be available in several languages, and will be supported by local organizations, will be a great tool to disseminate CSR concepts and help all participants involved in international trade understand the importance of it.

Finally we believe that solutions will emerge to leverage ISO 26000, and adress its shortcomings. EcoVadis has been using ISO 2600 criteria as one of the cornerstone in the development of our assessment tool and supplier’s rating methodology. We have already assessed thousands of companies across 80 countries, mostly SME’s, using ISO 26000 criteria, and believe that approval of ISO 26000 as an International Standard will benefit both buyers and suppliers subscribing to our platform.

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