Norvergence believes that studies of the adoption of ISO 26000 have been conceptual so far, and no one is sure about its future adoption methods. Norvergence expert provides insights into the type of adopting organization, geographical adoption and adoption challenges w.r.t social responsibility.

Sustainability is the buzzword in corporate boardrooms these days and is being seen as the next frontier in ethical way of doing business. As sustainability encompasses more areas like CSR, gender equality and human rights, the debate around standard setting is gaining importance. While there are many voluntary practices being adopted by companies in the past, investors are increasingly demanding sustainability standards to be adopted and transparent sustainability reporting to be practiced. There are many voluntary organizations who advocate for such standard setting or provide educational material to help companies identify strategies for sustainable growth. Sustainability is now no more a fancy item to be practiced separately, but a practice to be integrated into all aspects of the business.

Sustainability standards and practices are also being mandated by various governments and regulatory bodies around the world, making it mandatory for organizations to report sustainability practices and future vision. Such decisions and practices will drive investment decisions of the future. Let us look at one such standard set out by ISO from the lens of society. The reason behind looking at the sustainability standard by ISO from the lens of society is because organizational goals and societal goals have often contradicted themselves in the past and new age investors want the middle line between these goals to be well communicated to the society. We are increasingly being evident to the decreasing regulative power of nation states and a growing influence of multi-national corporations and different interest groups. Concepts like corporate responsibility so far seem to be elusive and crudely defined at best from the lens of the multi-national corporations. Moreover, the measures pursued under corporate responsibility vary widely across geographies and between large multi-national companies. Private enterprises are thus increasingly being called out to participate in policy making processes including transnational governance based standard setting exercises.

ISO 26000 is launched by ISO (International Organization for Standardization) and is an international standard providing guidelines for Social Responsibility. It was launched on 1st November 2010 with a goal towards contributing to global sustainable development, by encouraging business and other organizations to practice social responsibility to improve their impacts on workers, their natural environments and their communities. Based on surveys and other sources, it is estimated that 80 out of the more than 160 ISO member countries have so far adopted ISO 26000 as a national standard.

ISO 26000 contains 27 definitions, 7 main principles, and 7 core subjects. It also provides 7 steps for integration. The overall goal of ISO 26000 is to help the user/organization behave in a more socially responsible way and thereby contribute more to sustainable environmental, social, and economic development. The seven core subjects in ISO 26000 are Organizational Governance, Human Rights, Labour Practices, The Environment, Fair Operating Practices, Consumer Issues, and Community Involvement & Development.

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The seven principles of social responsibility are 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. ISO 26000 is a voluntary standard and does not qualify for certification. Therefore, it is advised to use the wordings from ISO guidance documents in conjunction with disclosure and report publishing wherever ISO 26000 principles and core areas have been mapped by a business and integrated into reporting practices thereby. Another unique aspect of ISO 26000 is that it can be used by any type of organization, not only businesses and corporations.

The earliest adopters of ISO 26000 are multi-national corporations based out of Europe and East Asia, particularly Japan. Approximately, 500 delegates, drawn from six stakeholder groups namely Industry, Government, NGO, Labour, Consumer, and SSRO have deliberated on the designing and evolution of these guidelines and standards. People from both developed and developing countries have participated to ensure that, the viewpoints are geographically and culturally diverse.

On March 13th 2019, after 9 years of local negotiations, ISO 26000:2010 Guidelines on Social Responsibility has been adopted as a national standard by India. The standard has been adopted by India in original except the long Annex listing voluntary social responsibility tool. ISO 26000:2010 Guidance on Social Responsibility is aimed at organizations of any size, activity or location. The transnational governance nature of ISO 26000:2010 standard provides flexibility for organizations to participate and also be evident to the evolution of these standards.

The adoption of ISO 26000:2010 Guidance on Social Responsibility is a very novel step towards embracing a social responsibility related national standard to be used by all variety of organizations in the country. ISO 26000:2010 thus does not mandate the standard as a national standard but provides credibility to the guidance material for its open public usage and adoption.