Will ISO 26000 be revised or not?

The 2017 systematic review ballot extended !

30 ISO country members voted: 12 in favor of updating ISO 26000:2010, 11 against revision and 7 abstained. The advisory ISO 26000 PPO interpreted the comments received with the weak majority in favor of revising the standard, and recommended ISO TMB to initiate a limited revision of ISO 26000. Such revision would update ISO 26000 based on the important developments since publication 7 years ago, for example

  • UN Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals
  • The final UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights
  • The revised OECD MNE Guidelines
  • The relevant new ISO Standards, e.g. ISO 20400 Sustainable Procurement: 2017, ISO 37001:2017 Anti-Bribery, ISO 20121:2012 Sustainable Events

More than 80 countries have adopted ISO 26000:2010 as national standard and thousands of companies and organizations are using it, many in developing countries. Perhaps this was the reason why last week ISO TMB decided that more countries need to cast their vote:  the ballot has been extended to October 25th. Let us hope the National Standards bodies will take time to consult their stakeholders and cast a vote so that ISO TMB can decide at their meeting in February. Please support your NSB in this process.

Some organisations are against revision

Some international organizations have contacted ISO and explained why they do not recommend a revision of ISO 26000:2010. ISO has replied that they can not centrally tell their 162 country members what to vote.

One of the statements from the international organizations arguing against a revision of ISO 26000 is
“The standard is aligned with international human and labour rights and standards, for example UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, and revising ISO 26000 risk changing that and undermine international norms”

Comment: Many of us who were part of developing ISO 26000 would argue the other way around: ISO 26000 does not set any norms, it guides the user towards existing international norms. Therefore, ISO 26000 must be updated if these norms are updated. Organisations should always be offered guidelines that are updated and aligned with the key authoritative documents. If ISO 26000 is updated it will most likely support these international norms even stronger than in the 2010 version. After all, it was published before for example the SDGs, UNGPs and revised OECD MNE Guideline.

Another statement is
“The process through which ISO standards, and therefore ISO 26000, would be revised is not multi-stakeholder based.”

Comment: All existing 20 000 standards have been developed through the same process and at any given time there are at least 100 000 experts involved in ISO-standardization, centrally registered in one of seven stakeholder categories in order to track stakeholder balance. Nationally, outside the central international process, there are many hundreds of thousands of additional experts involved in the very important national committees.  Good international standardization follows the WTO-principles of openness, transparency, development dimension etcetera, and so does ISO.

Another statement:
“ISO members are never seen in the international public policy debate and therefore ISO should not develop international social standards such as ISO 26000”

Comment: The ISO-members are national standards bodies (NSBs) that provide a platform for national experts to input to international ISO standards. These experts come from all types of organizations and it is these organizations, not the NSBs, which participate in public policy. The NSBs consult their expert stakeholders that voluntarily participate in standardization and the NSBs can then vote in favor of standards that are relevant to their markets. ISO and its members are not developing standards that contradict national regulation or international authoritative documents. The term “social standard” is not used inside ISO 26000 nor is it used on ISO website. ISO sets standards for organizations to operationalize current state-of-the-art, not re-write societal norms or social standards.

Some organisations prepare for a revision

In order to prepare for a revision of ISO 26000 and other related standards such as ISO 20400 Sustainable Procurement and ISO 20121 Sustainable Events, ISO member country Sweden has proposed to set up an ISO Technical Committee on Social Responsibility. There are already more than 200 Technical Committees (families of standards) in ISO e.g. Quality Management, Environmental Management, Solid Biofuels. 99 % of all 20 000 ISO standards are managed in TCs but the standards related to ISO 26000 and some 40 other standards are managed by ISO TMB.

The proposed TC SR would maintain and develop standards related to ISO 26000 and, if the participating member experts find it relevant, develop additional ones. Having such a technical committee on Social Responsibility would also help those 100 000 experts that are currently writing other standards. An example: “Human Rights” is currently mentioned more than 50 times in different ways and ISO-documents (see iso.org/obp). A TC SR can among other things make sure there is consistency in terms and definitions.

Existing and coming ISO-deliverables need to be consistent with international norms related social responsibility and sustainability. This can be a very important contribution from the ISO members to the much needed “speed up and scale up” of companies and organizations using international norms. There are more than 1,000,000 verified companies/organization verified using one of the ISO standards (ISO 9001 for quality management). Many million more organizations are using the other 20,000 ISO-standards in all parts of the world, developed or developing. Having a TC SR can help those millions of companies and organizations using ISO standards to also see and use the standards and international norms related to social responsibility.

The ISO members decide: the ballot for/against a proposed TC SR will close October 10 and then ISO TMB will interpret the results and decide.
Please support your NSB in this process.

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