The project is presented in detail on the ISO website

The following thoughts are offered as complementary information.

Initiation (June 2002)

Under the headline „Consumers call for the development of International Standards for Corporate social responsibility” ISO reports on its website on the workshop of its Consumer Policy Committee (COPOLCO) that took place in June 2002 in Trinidad-Tobago.

ISO says in its press release that …..“Some 170 representatives from business, industry, consumer organizations and standards bodies from throughout the world, as well as international organizations, attended the Trinidad workshop to examine the feasibility….”.
Unfortunately ISO does not give an insight into the list of participants but the two participants from industry (from the US and Japan) reported that they had been the only industry representatives. From this it can be seen that the project was initiated by primarily by consumers and standards bodies, regardless of the fact that business and industry would be most affected by such a project.

It seems also worthwhile mentioning that public discussion, those days, was dominated by scandals such as that involving ENRON Corporation and its accounting firm Arthur Andersen, and the accusation that NIKE was using child labour in Asia. Consumers and others felt that such deplorable states of affairs might be remedied, among other means, by an ISO Standard on social responsibility, building on ISO’s good reputation and the transparency of its processes.

SAG, the Special Advisory Group (September 2002 – April 2004)

As a result of the outcome of the COPOLCO workshop, the ISO/TMB (Technical Management Board) set up the Special Advisory Group late in 2002. The group was tasked to study the issue of an ISO guidance standard on social responsibility in more detail, and investigate its possible role and benefit in comparison with many other existing and emerging standards in this area. This website’s author represented the interests of European industry in the SAG.

After a tight meeting schedule the SAG came up with its “Report” to the ISO/TMB in April 2004, which included a recommendation that ISO undertake work in the area of social responsibility. Further the SAG provided its recommendations  to the ISO/TMB, including

  • the conditions to be met for ISO to proceed,
  • an unequivocal statement that the deliverable should be a guidance standard and
    not a specification standard, and
  • process recommendations, including the involvement of all major stakeholders.

Stockholm Conference (June 2004)

In order to give the broadest possible audience an opportunity to discuss the SAG recommendations and to agree on a possible way forward, ISO organized a conference in Stockholm in June 2004 (please see also ). Developing countries articulated well their desire to get an
ISO Standard. With the SAG recommendations in mind and taking into account the conference’s conclusions the ISO/TMB decided in Stockholm to start the ISO 26000 project.

NWIP, New Work Item Proposal (October 2004)

Based on the SAG recommendations and the outcomes of the Stockholm Conference, the ISO Central Secretariat drafted the NWIP and sent it out to the over 150 national member organizations for comment and vote.
An overwhelming majority voted in favour. The NWIP contained also a time line but it was pretty clear that it could not be as binding as in normal ISO projects, due to the complexity of the SR topic and the project organization.

Further interesting reading

The ISO brochure ‘Participating in the future International Standard ISO 26000 on Social Responsibility’ offers you more details on the background, the organizational structure of the working group, the membership and the liaison organizations having nominated experts to participate. It also gives information on the process for participating in the development of the SR standard. The brochure is available at )

A fascinating Working Group “WG SR”, (January 2005 onwards)

To carry out the work, the ISO/TMB established a balanced, multi-stakeholder Working Group, designated ISO/TMB/WG SR, or simply WG SR.
The WG is made up of experts nominated from six stakeholder categories by ISO member bodies that choose to participate, internal ISO/IEC liaisons and external liaison, which are open to any relevant international or broadly based regional organization that wants to participate in the work.

The stakeholder categories are:

  • Consumers,
  • Industry,
  • Labour,
  • Government,
  • Non-government Organisations (NGO’s), and
  • Service, support, research and others (SSRO)

Being involved in this project in the SAG and as an active “observer” of the WG, a few items are worthwhile mentioning (the author could attend in person only the 5th meeting in Vienna, November 2007):

  • It is reported that the WG SR, with more than 400 members, is the biggest ISO WG so far
  • The WG members come from more than 70 countries and liaison organizations, and the majority of participants are working for the first time in an ISO project
  • It is no surprise that the necessary personal mutual understanding (as prerequisite for negotiations of substance) in such a huge and diverse working group could not be reached earlier than by the fourth meeting
  • The process evolution from Working Draft 1 (WD1) towards WD2, WD3, WD4.1 and WD4.2 is amazing and demonstrates a perfect “evolutionary management” by the two chairpersons and their advisory boards.
    This is the point to explicitly commend the chair, Jorge E. R. Cajazeira, and the co-chair Staffan Söderberg, the secretaries Kristina Sandberg and Eduardo Campos de São Thiago, and particularly the brilliant leader of the IDTF (Integrated Drafting Task Force) Jonathon Hanks from South Africa for their hard work and skills; see also
  • The substantial complexity of social responsibility lead to some 5.000 comments for the later WDs. This volume lead to a “grouping of comments” into “key issues”; a process by which lots of detailed comments are not directly dealt with, but it is understandable that the detailed comments can’t really be addressed unless there is WG consensus on the “key issues”
  • ISO undertook a process innovation in asking the WG members to organize themselves into stakeholder
    groups, with the freedom to define their own working rules to reach stakeholder group consensus.

CD stage (Committee Draft)

From December 2008 till 12 March 2009 the CD Committee Draft was out for comments, see CD stage. By mail of 27 March 2009 the WG SR Leadership declared the CD stage terminated, according to the ISO/IEC Directives, because the vote by ISO member bodies resulted in an exact two thirds majority, see vote analysis.

DIS stage (Draft International Standard)

This phase begins with the Quebec City meeting on 18 May 2009.

Project cost estimation, from start in 2003 to September 2009

International standardization is not a cheap matter. The cost estimation takes the necessary parameters at their lowest possible level. It speaks for itself; it is not meant to say whether the project costs are high or small. It is just an orientation.

The total costs of the project, taking the time from early 2003 till September 2009, sum up to

72 Million US Dollars (51 at WG SR level, 21 at national mirror committees).
Not included are the costs at D-Liaison Organizations.

Please see further details here.

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