Success criteria

ISO 26000, success criteria for the DIS (Draft International Standard)

Building on the content of ISO 26000 CD as of 2008-12 and the various comments by ISO member bodies and D-Liaison organizations, and taking into account the outcome of user surveys (by IISD, and the “Quick user survey” ) these requests in the following table aim at supporting drafting of the DIS.

The criteria for success are formulated as “requests”. The list contains only essential criteria and does not claim to be “complete” or “comprehensive”. Some project management requests are listed first, followed by those related to the DIS content, underscoring the point that project management requests may also lead to changes of content.

The requests are seen as helping secure the success of ISO 26000 in the “market place” by shaping a quality that an ISO standard deserves. In other words: if these requests were not be taken into account, the ISO 26000 could well create many discussions and arguments being detrimental to the ISO 26000 itself and perhaps even more so to ISO as organization.

Later in 2009 it is intended to analyse whether the draft DIS, when ready, meets these criteria.

These WORD documents can be downloaded:
– The full document including its three annexes, file ‘Success criteria EN 2009-05-06’
– The document’s three annexes, as separate files
‘succ-ax1-EN consistency check’,
‘succ-ax2-EN meeting design spec’, and
‘succ-ax3-EN listing ISO2600 under cert’n & MSS’

– Annex 2 in plain text (meeting the requirements of the Design Specification and the New Work Item Proposal) is
additionally shown further down here .



Request Rationale
P1 Consistency check of key terms used, like “relevance” The quality of a standard in general, and of an ISO standard in particular, requires that key terms are used consistently throughout the document. Otherwise users get confused and the application of the standard suffers. On “relevance” this check was made, see annex 1.

Recommendation: Identify all key terms and screen the document in the same way


P2 The draft DIS should meet the requirements of the Design Specification N049 (and its annexes including the requirements of the NWIP New Work Item Proposal) The Design Specification describes what the outcome of the project should be. This Design Specification found WG SR consensus in one of the early meetings.

It goes without saying that the draft DIS should be compared against the requirements of the Design Specification.

Annex 2 to this document shows the NWIP related requirements and gives an initial assessment of their fulfilment.

Recommendation: Check the draft DIS against N049 before sending it out for the requisite five month enquiry


P3 Adapting the scope at the end of drafting the DIS so that the scope reflects the document’s content


Recommendation: take this very normal step in the development of an ISO standard at the end of drafting the DIS (Draft International Standard)


P4 Performance of a beta test under the auspices of ISO


It is a normal step in ISO projects of such complexity to perform a professional practice test with a well defined sample of participants. This recommendation is contained e.g. in the BIAC comments, BIAC being the Business and Industry Advisory Council to the OECD. The invaluable effect is that practitioners’ views can be collected and be used to improve the usability and value of the document. The DIS stage is the latest stage in the ISO development process where a beta test is reasonable.

Recommendation: specify the beta test and run it in parallel with the drafting of the DIS, thereby ahead of the DIS enquiry so that ideally, results can be made available in time for some analysis and incorporation into the draft DIS  before it is sent to ISO member bodies for enquiry

P5 The claim of “applicability to all types of organizations In this case it should be explicitly mentioned that the ISO 26000 is applicable to all kinds of organizations: public and private companies, businesses large and small, government and state agencies, foundations and academic centers, NGOs, labor unions and other institutions.

As deducible from item T4, this would require a major redesign of the current text, also in order to make it applicable for SMO.

Recommendation: if so decided, develop a new schedule for finalizing the project including a major re-write.

P6 General comments’ handling; feedback to commenters The comments template distinguishes between general, technical and editorial comments. General comments mostly highlight major concerns, many of them not expressed for the first time. A main purpose of the CD enquiry was to get particularly serious comments so that they need not be expressed again in the DIS enquiry. So, commentators should get a feedback on their general comments on how these have been taken into account when drafting the DIS.

It would be too bad in regard of image and process if general comments would have to be repeated when commenting on the DIS.

Recommendation: use column 7 of the template and provide a feedback on the general comments.

T1 Volume of document The persistent, consistent and substantial number of comments on this point is persuasive evidence that the volume of more than 100 pages is found burdensome and SMOs showed no readiness to study all details, particularly those with only local operations.

Recommendation: either reduce the volume to some 50 pages max. by reworking the whole text or maintain its handbook character and agree to publish it as an ISO Technical Report.

T2 Modification of claim: all core issues being relevant to all organizations The current claim is that all core subjects are relevant to all organizations while small and micro organizations in particular, having participated in the Quick user survey, deny this.

Recommendation: express clearly that the organization itself has to determine the relevance of a core subject.

T3 Government, and applicability and usefulness for all types of organizations


The current CD text excludes governmental organizations while they are logically included in “all types of organizations”.

Recommendation: either include governments into the scope of the guidance standard, or include a definition of “organization” as used throughout the ISO 26000 that excludes governmental organizations

T4 SMO, and applicability and usefulness for all types of organizations


The current CD text is not found applicable and useful by SMOs, i.e. small (up to 50 persons) and medium (up to 200 persons) organizations, and particularly not by micro organizations (up to 10 persons).

Recommendation: either exclude SMOs from the scope of the guidance standard noting this as a deviation from the requirements of the Design Specification N049, or include a definition of “organization” as used in ISO 26000 that excludes SMO.

T5 Stakeholder definition


A stakeholder is not any random or arbitrary individual or group that simply makes the claim to be one, but needs both to be affected by an organization’s operations and to have the will to cooperate with the organization.

Recommendation: modify the definition accordingly

T6 Going beyond law


For organizations operating in countries where social responsibility related laws and regulations exist, are part of the culture, and enforcement mechanisms work, organizations will see no reason why they should go beyond law. In other countries this may be seen to be completely in line with the ISO 26000 guidance.

Recommendation: modify this claim so that ISO 26000 respects and takes into account the different levels of law, regulation and enforcement mechanisms in areas where it may be used

T7 Preventing misuse of ISO 26000 as a barrier to trade It should be explicitly stated that ISO 26000 should not be considered as an international standard relative to the terms of the WTO Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (i.e., Introduction, Lines 120 – 121, Scope, Lines 174 – 175).

Recommendation: include such an explicit statement into the scope

T8 Certification: put beyond doubt that ISO 26000 as a guidance standard does not contain any requirement and can’t be used for certification First the scope read that the guidance standard “is not intended for certification…” Then it was amended to “…is not intended or appropriate for certification…”.

Both wordings indicate that this is the intent of the document but don’t say clearly that certification against a guidance standard is technically simply not possible: it is left to the user what to do with the document, including – as an option – to certify against it. So, it is not a surprise that first examples occur, see , where certification is/was offered or the ISO 26000 is listed under certification and management systems (like at NSAI, the Irish ISO member; even when the later text on ISO 26000 under these headings says, that ISO 26000 certification is not offered; see 2009-04-29, also reproduced in Annex 3 to this document).

Most cases, so far, occurred due to a lack of information, in spite of all good ISO information policies. The desire to create revenues from certification seems to induce such offers.

A clarification expressed in the Introduction would not be sufficient because the introduction of an ISO standard is not normative but of explanatory nature only.

Recommendation: add a note to the related paragraph of the scope that reads
“Note: any such action is a misuse of ISO 26000”.

T9 ISO 26000 being a guidance standard Referencing the ISO 26000 in itself not as “This International Standard” but as “This guidance standard…”; it does not make sense to mention the general term “International Standard” repeatedly because everyone knows that ISO publishes International Standards but it does make sense to emphasize that ISO 26000 is special, i.e. a  guidance standards.

Recommendation: where necessary, denote the document as a
guidance standard

T10 Language: easy to understand, not redundant, not swollen, not insinuating


SMOs in particular do not find the text easy to understand. The appellation  ‘relating/related to social responsibility’ occurs 6 times in the scope and 12 times in the text of the document, while the whole document ”relates/is relating to” social responsibility.
Various comments identify paragraphs of redundant content. The quality of ISO standards requires redundancy-free texts.Recommendations:
A) rework the text accordingly and make it encouraging, free of redundancies and easy to understand,
B) have the draft DIS, before publication, double-checked by a skilled person not  having been involved in the project so far, and
C) make a test by asking a well designed sample of 100 potential users
T11 Avoidance of undefined terms, like

  • “health welfare of society”, or
  • International norms of behavior

An ISO Standard must not contain undefined terms.

Welfare of society is an undefined term and will likely find as many differing interpretations as the number of people asked, so that it is easy to subscribe to, but also meaningless.

For example, an organization can easily argue that employing a person and giving it and/or its family income and a living is a contribution to the welfare of society.

Furthermore, there must be no equivocating on the primary responsibility of the state for the “health and welfare of society”.  These references, e.g., lines 93-94, 248, must be removed from where they appear throughout the document, including in the Social Responsibility definition.  This is far too broad an objective for an individual organization to even attempt to achieve.

Recommendation: terms to be deleted or replaced; check for other such undefined terms and either define or delete them

T12 Key terms and verbs need to have the same meaning in all languages; examples

  • Stakeholder
  • Social vs. societal
  • Welfare of society
  • should
As an example:

  • stakeholder” in German is “betroffene Kreise”, that means  “affected parties” and not just “interested parties”;
    in Spanish the translation is “ las partes interesadas“, which would re-translate into „interested parties“
  • Social” can mean both an individual social case or “related to society”; in German “sozial” can also mean both these cases and for better differentiation the second case is attributed by “gesellschaftlich” which would re-translate into “societal”;
    in Spanish “social” indicates also both meanings
  • Welfare of society” would translate, with the same meaning, into Spanish by “bienestar  de la sociedad”; in German expressions like “gesellschaftlicher Wohlstand” or “Wohlstand der Gesellschaft” are uncommon and the translation with an equivalent meaning would be “allgemeiner Wohlstand”, which would re-translate into “general welfare”
  • should” is “sollte” in German and “debería” in Spanish
    “could” is “könnte” and “podría”
  • “may” is “kann” and “puede”

It would cause huge differences in the understanding of ISO 26000 if key terms and key verbs would be translated with different meanings.

Recommendation: list the key terms and verbs, and prepare an agreed translation of them before the various translation task forces start the translation work.

ISO 26000, success criteria for the DIS (Draft International Standard)

Annex 2
Checking ISO 26000 CD against the Design Specification as given in N049

Here: against the NWIP which is referred to in the N049 annex and thereby inherently part of the Design Specification.

Requirement of NWIP, starting with its Annex A
item 1, “Scope of the standard”
Conjecture on whether ISO 26000 CD fulfills these requirements
assists organizations in addressing their social responsibilities while respecting cultural, societal, environmental and legal differences and economic development conditions; yes
provides practical guidance related to a) operationalizing social responsibility, b) identifying and engaging with stakeholders, and c) enhancing credibility of reports and claims made about social responsibility; yes
emphasizes performance results and improvement; yes
increases confidence and satisfaction in organizations among their customers and other stakeholders; debatable
is consistent with, and not in conflict with, existing documents, international treaties and conventions and existing ISO standards; needs to be checked
is not intended to reduce government’s authority to address the social responsibility of organizations; debatable
promotes common terminology in the social responsibility field; and yes
broadens awareness of social responsibility yes
Taken from item 3 of Annex A:

  • The standard should be applicable by all types of organizations. (e.g. regardless of their size, location, the nature of their activities and products, and the culture, society and environment in which they carry out their activities.)
Taken from Annex B, little c):

  • limiting the proliferation of  SR sector standards;
Taken from Annex B, little f):

  • facilitate trade liberalization and remove trade barriers (implement open and fair trade); and
Taken from Annex B, little f):

  • complement [remark: the original text says “compliment”] and avoid conflicts with other existing SR standards and requirements.
No, unless the ISO 26000 is clearly denoted as “guidance standard” and not as “International Standard”
Easy to read, or, as said in the Design Specification N049, lines 63 and 64: “The language must be clear, understandable and objective throughout the guidance standard. no

May 2009, by Guido Gürtler

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