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RESOURCES: The New ISO 26000 Standard for CSR (Part 4)

Posted by Jennifer Woofter on April 2, 2009

This series of blog posts looks at the new ISO 26000 standard for corporate social responsibility. In five parts, it summarizes the report, How Material is ISO 26000 Social Responsibility to Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs)?, written by Oshani Perera in Sept, 2008.

PART IV: RESULTS OF THE SME SURVEY ON ISO 26000 SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY (cont’d)

ISO 26000, WITH EDITING AND IMPROVED PRESENTATION, HAS THE POTENTIAL TO SERVE AS A COMPREHENSIVE INTRODUCTION TO SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY
The study suggests that ISO 26000, with substantial improvements in style, language, and layout, can serve as a comprehensive introduction to social responsibility. And despite seeing the need for various improvements, all the respondents agreed the content of the draft, though very global and generic, did provide SMEs with a bigger picture of what social responsibility could entail for all organizations, including SMEs. Many respondents commented that the draft standard goes well beyond the requirements of other social responsibility standards, and were interested to see how the standard would play out in the marketplace.

ISO 26000 IS NOT LIKELY TO SERVE AS A MANAGEMENT TOOL FOR SMES
As much as ISO 26000 provides a comprehensive introduction of the SME debate, 89 percent of the respondents did not see ISO 26000 being used as a management tool by smaller organizations. The main reason for this perspective was that respondents regarded ISO 26000 to be too broad-spectrum and implicit to serve as a resource in operational challenges. The NCPCs commented further that ISO 26000 would need to be repackaged to address national and even sector-specific concerns, if it was to be of wider appeal.

ISO 26000 WILL ONLY ATTRACT A SELECTED PROFILE OF ENTREPRENEURS
All the respondents universally agreed that ISO 26000 will be picked up only by a selected profile of SMEs, namely:
• Those that are looking to export to Europe and North America
• Those that feed into international value chains
• Those whose products/services are inherently linked to environmental and social integrity
• Those that are financed by socially responsible and ethical investors
• Those led by individuals who more deeply appreciate environmental and social opportunities and risks
One comment offered: “ISO 26000 and all standards on these issues are not for everybody.”

SMES DO NOT IDENTIFY WITH JARGON
Over 45 per cent of the SMEs and 60 per cent of the consultants and NCPCs raised the issue of terminology and jargon getting in the way of promoting social responsibility. Interestingly, SMEs do not identify with the terms social responsibility or corporate social responsibility and did not use them internally. Instead, they referred to their social responsibility activities under a variety of other terms, including compliance, client relationships, client audits, client monitoring and external audits. “Social responsibility (or whatever you want to call it) is knowing that my workers represent 215 children under 10 years old. This is about getting the balance right—helping the business grow and helping these children have better opportunities than their parents.” (SME in Malaysia, forestry sector)

THE GENERAL MATERIALITY OF ISO 26000 SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY
Approximately 90 per cent of the respondents considered the social responsibility principles given in ISO 26000 to be too remote from day-to-day operations to be of value to small organizations.

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