The voluntary use of ISO standards by companies and organisations is the most important contribution from ISO to sustainable development. ISO 26000 is one of more than 20 000 published ISO-standards but is unique in the sense that it defines how an organisation can contribute to the full spectrum of sustainable development through socially responsible behaviour – with an aim of a future state of the global system that is called sustainability. Social responsibility and standards can play an important role in the progress towards sustainability, illustrated in the following way:
Enlarge this figure here.
ISO has illustrated how standards benefit business, society and governments through areas such as environment, quality, food, health, water, ergonomics, safety, efficiency, climate change. Most ISO-standards are traditionally “technical standards” and help the user define technical aspects or requirements of goods and services, all in order to catalyze international trade and communication. Over the past 30 years the ISO member countries have also called for “management standards” such as ISO 14000 Environmental management, ISO 9000 Quality Management, ISO 45001 Occupational Health and Safety management system and ISO 26000 Social Responsibility.
ISO 26000 is a management standard, but not a MSS (management system standard), and is almost the only ISO standard that offers the user a complete and integrated approach to organizational responsibilities. There is an interesting text written on this.
Sustainability has its own section at the ISO website and ISO presents the approach in a ISO Brochure on sustainability. ISO and its members see ISO standards as contributions to a more sustainable world and have even developed a guide to those writing standards on how to address sustainability in standardization, Guide 82 , which is available at the ISO website.
ISO has also published a brochure on how users of ISO 26000 contribute to to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
ISO PPO has also published an annex to the ISO brochure explaining the details of how ISO 26000 relates to the SDGs and their targets.