What Is ISO 26000?—Guidance on Social Responsibility

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Quality Glossary Definition: ISO 26000
ISO 26000 is the international standard developed to help organizations effectively assess and address those social responsibilities that are relevant and significant to their mission and vision; operations and processes; customers, employees, communities, and other stakeholders; and environmental impact.

The ISO 26000 standard provides guidance on:

  • The seven key underlying principles of social responsibility: accountability, transparency, ethical behavior, respect for stakeholder interests, respect for the rule of law, respect for international norms of behavior, and respect for human rights
  • Recognizing social responsibility and engaging stakeholders
  • The seven core subjects and issues pertaining to social responsibility: organizational governance, human rights, labor practices, the environment, fair operating practices, consumer issues, and community involvement and development
  • Ways to integrate socially responsible behavior into the organization

In addition to providing definitions and information to help organizations understand and address social responsibility, the standard emphasizes the importance of results and improvements in performance on social responsibility.

Who uses ISO 26000?

Organizations in the private, public, and nonprofit sectors, whether large or small, and whether operating in developed or developing countries, use ISO 26000. All of the core subjects are relevant in some way to every organization.

Since the core subjects comprise a number of issues, organizations will benefit when they identify, through examination of their own considerations and dialogue with stakeholders, which issues are most relevant and significant for them to address.

ISO 26000 facts

  • Intended as guidance, not for certification
  • Presents a comprehensive documentation of social responsibilities including core subjects and issues related to those subjects
  • Written by a unique multi-sectoral group representing governments; non-governmental organizations (NGOs); industry; consumer groups; labor; and academic, consulting, and other organizations around the world
  • More than 400 experts and 200 observers from 99 countries and 42 international organizations contributed to the development effort
  • Last reviewed for possible revision in 2014; need for revision will be considered again in three years

Get started with ISO 26000

ASQ is the only place to get ASQ/ANSI/ISO 26000-2010, the American National Standard version of ISO 26000:2010.

Purchase the e-standard or ask about a site license for posting an electronic version to your Local Area Network or Intranet.

What does ISO 26000 accomplish?

The scope of ISO 26000 includes the following:

  • Assist organizations in addressing their social responsibilities while respecting cultural, societal, environmental, and legal differences and economic development conditions
  • Provide practical guidance related to making social responsibility operational
  • Assist with identifying and engaging with stakeholders and enhancing credibility of reports and claims made about social responsibility
  • Emphasize performance results and improvement
  • Increase confidence and satisfaction in organizations among their customers and other stakeholders
  • Achieve consistency with existing documents, international treaties and conventions, and existing ISO standards
  • Promote common terminology in the social responsibility field
  • Broaden awareness of social responsibility

This standard is not intended to reduce government’s authority to address the social responsibility of organizations.

Why did you look up ISO 26000?
Please let us know what resources your organization needs to support its ISO 26000 efforts. If you would like a reply, please include an email address.


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