Since the development of ISO 26000:2010 is an experiment, and offers also the opportunity for some serious deliberations of the future drafting of social standards and society related standardization.
(status February 2011)

My key statement is: Societies are different in many aspects and societies want to keep these differences.
Putting it the other way round would read: What a terrible world would it be if we had everywhere the same cultures, religions, education etc??
The easy conclusion is that there are narrow limits for useful society related standards. The application of the guidance standard ISO 26000 will make us learn whether it goes already beyond these “narrow limits”.

My friend Yusof M. Hitam (TSD) from Malaysia puts it this way: There are shared values and concerns between peoples; and there are subjective and objectives differences which have to be respected if this world and the universe is to be habited peacefully by peoples, animals, and plants. I believe that all these are mutually interdependent. I do believe you and I , and many others, share these concerns. So there are “standards” of conduct, action, and demands that should be formulated if these concerns could be mutually identified. Such effort could continue, and as you suggested once, ISO 26000 could be seen as one such a step. The search should continue on a more sound basis, and with an open mind…. we need some future action in the search of an international social behaviour or conduct (not “standards” in the sense of
“sanctions “) in order to protect and promote sustainability of life on earth – for mankind, plants and animals.

And he is right. Adding a geographical dimension, one can say:

  • national standards can address national societies and their national values
  • regional standards can address a conglomerate of national societies and make sense only if they are limited to the common values of the nations in a region
  • international standards will have to address all societies and, to be accepted internationally by these societies, make sense only if they focus on a globally agreed set of societal values.

This globally agreed set of societal values has not been found yet. A global research project would be needed to specify this set. The current edition ISO 26000:2010 is a valuable input for this research project, particularly when sound experiences with its practical application have been made. However, the ISO 26000 can only be a minor contribution, because there are invaluable other documents and practical viewpoints that need to be included in such a global research project. ISO could, and should, be a major contributor.

You, as a reader of this site, are kindly invited to disclose and provide your own ideas and perspectives, regardless whether you would like to have them published on this site or not.

In practical terms: there would not be a problem to set up an Internet based discussion group, for example in LinkedIn.

The Future

A word on the future of Social Responsibility (SR)
(developed 2008-12)

A System approach would be the most efficient.
Almost every-thing can be perceived as a system: a system consists of elements and their relationship to each other. Elements can often be sub-systems. Elements are influenced by parameters.

The complexity of an SR system can be structured
Any short glance at the complexity of SR readily shows many elements and the question is: What are the parameters that influence them?
It requires only a brief reflection to identify some of these elements, but there are many more:

Level Elements
Political Constitution – who has which power in a country
Parties in charge of government, left or right or …
Legal and judicial system
Enforcement mechanisms, general
SR-related law, regulation and enforcement
Neighbouring countries
Treaties, conventions
Readiness to accept/tolerate actions of other countries
Personal Family and other personal roots
Relations with others
Experiences with SR
Attitude, willingness to improve something
Convictions – religious, philosophical, etc
Networks – personal and professional
Organizational Conviction of the leadership
Level of workforce education
Common understanding/motivation to help/change something
Relations with other organizations
Membership in external organizations, associations
Economic dimension, short term, long term

This table is certainly not complete and would need much more work to produce a framework for an SR system.
The process to develop such a framework model could include:

  • SR Elements need to be identified and put into a systematic order
  • The interrelations between SR elements would need to be analysed, and
  • For each element an analysis of its parameters should be made.

Research-based further development

This would need research and would lead to a multidimensional SR system. In comparison, the WG SR has taken the “normal” standardization approach that is, to collect, debate and prioritize the key topics that the working group members (“experts” and “observers”) think important (see clause 6 of CD1 on core subjects and issues) and build the document around those. With all due respect to all contributors and recognizing the constraints on time, CD1 can only be a first attempt – and a comparatively modest one. It deals with a limited number of issues (elements), with little thought devoted to the parameters of the issues and their interrelationships.

Now, one can say that a more systematic approach would go beyond the scope of the project – and the reply would be, YES; but the question remains whether the current issues are the most relevant, most important and most effective ones to globally promote a culture of social responsibility. A double-check against the above-mentioned multidimensional SR system would surely be worthwhile and would provide a more solid basis for any further development of the guidance standard.

Other existing SR codes and standards suffer in the same way. They also deal only with some elements of the multidimensional SR system. But ISO, in view of its good global reputation, should be better than these others and feel encouraged to embark on the necessary research and to introduce, in this complex project, a more systematic approach.

SR, as practiced, varies from global to local actions

The ILO Conventions, the UN Global Compact, the OECD Guidelines for Multinationals and other such international documents, with multi-lateral agreements at government level are well known and address essentially bigger organizations with cross-border activities.
That is the one end of the spectrum. The other end is the innumerable actions that are also going on at personal, cooperative, local, national and regional levels, with the result that new initiatives are continually emerging.

As regional and national examples, one may mention “CSR Europe” see: and “CSR Germany”, joint activities of governments and industry. At a local level, the behaviour of the baker around the corner serves well as an example; customers would not buy his bread if he acted in a manner detrimental to his local community – and his bakery would cease to exist!

In another example of “micro SR”, the father of a family living in a small village in the Swabian Mountains died in an accident and there was no money for his son to gain a higher education. The carpenter in the village learnt of this situation and offered the son an apprenticeship, to relieve the financial burden on the family and enable him in due course to earn his own living.

A further example of local “micro SR”, picked up from the Bavarian radio on 22 December 2008: the owner of a family company in Lower Bavaria announced that he pays from now on the kindergarten fees for all his 125 workers’ kids.

Further ones are presented under Good Examples. There are millions of micro SR actions, based on cultural and personal beliefs, and they take place daily, all over the world, without anyone knowing about any standard.
This is the field of personal SR and the SR of small and medium organizations.

How to proceed with the ISO 26000?

BAs referred to above, further research is needed to determine the SR elements, their interrelations and parameters. The most important, effective and common elements could then be dealt with in the next ISO 26000 draft (CD or DIS). This research would necessarily include the decisive role of governments.

Again, see role of governments, SR can only be successful in countries with a working legal system that protects all citizens. Today one can observe that effective legal systems are missing particularly in countries with the highest lack of SR actions.

SR is dynamic and driven by creativity; therefore, detailed SR related laws and regulations would rather hinder than promote SR, but an effective legal system is an indispensable prerequisite for the welfare of society; it is the basis for the development of an SR culture, SR actions etc. Standards, including ISO 26000, can have a promotional role only on top of effective legal systems.

Proposed actions:

To secure the broadest possible acceptance and use of the finally published ISO 26000 guidance standard, ISO work should acknowledge the wide range of existing SR practices and devote a whole section of the guidance standard to this.

To achieve this, ISO should

  • set up a Special Study Group (SSG), composed of SR specialists (practitioners and researchers),
  • investigate SR elements (issues), their interrelations and parameters, including the role of governments
  • identify the most efficient and practicable “issues”
  • “test” them against the real world, in a professional user survey, and
    ensure that all findings get merged into the finally published ISO 26000.
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