In 2010 the international standard ISO 26000 – Social Responsibility, was launched. It states that businesses and organisations do not operate in a vacuum. Their aims and objectives should therefore be the same as those in the wider society.
While other standards have a strict protocol, to which the organisation must comply (e.g. BS 9,001 and 14,001,) this standard is a looser concept, where environmental aims and good business procedures are established while allowing organizations to operate flexibly but effectively. It requires organisations bearing this label to act in an ethical and transparent way that contributes to the health and welfare of society.
The company or organisation produces an environmental statement outlining their aims for minimising energy use, reducing packaging, improved separation of recyclables, better employee management communication, and so on. They would then institute a series of reviews of procedures to make the changes necessary to meet the new protocols.
Benefits to the company and society at large
Several benefits arise from this approach. The company aligns itself with the aims of society in minimising environmental damage and in becoming a good employer. It also positions itself as a business worthy of ethical investment. There is in addition a feelgood factor by customers, suppliers and staff members. While the lack of a strict “tickbox” protocol may be viewed as a licence to cheat, if the aims and objectives are well advertised, both internally and externally, this will encourage adherence to the stated aims.
Recent take up of ISO 26000
Agrico UK Limited, Seed potato company, Castleton of Eassie, Glamis, By Forfar, Angus, Scotland, DD8 1SJ, a subsidiary of Dutch potato cooperative Agrico Holland, has just completed it ISO 26000 Social Responsibility assessment. They have produced a 36-page document which is available on the Agrico website. This illustrates what a relatively small, forward looking business can do.