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Advisory Group Recommends that ISO Initiate Work on Social Responsibility

New York, Feb 19, 2003

An advisory group convened by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) has recommended two concrete steps to assist in determining whether or not to develop ISO standards or deliverables addressing the social responsibility of business corporations and all types of organizations.

After its second meeting on February 16-17, 2003 in Geneva, the group has recommended that ISO develop a technical report surveying the current worldwide state of social responsibility codes, guidelines and specifications. The group also proposed that ISO employ a study to justify the preparation of a management system guideline standard that specifically includes a process for the self-declaration of conformity by organizations, excluding conformity assessment involving third-party certification. The recommendations will initially be considered by ISO governance bodies at their meetings in March 2003.

In a working paper identifying preliminary issues, the group addressed the dilemma of the term “corporate social responsibility”: "Although there are many entities which use the word 'corporate social responsibility’ (CSR), there is no single authoritative definition of the term and it is recognized that the term is evolving over time. However, most definitions emphasize the interrelationship amongst economic, environmental and social aspects and impacts of an organization's activities.

"It is not this advisory group's role to authoritatively define CSR. With respect to the use of the word 'corporate', it is understood that CSR had its origins in the context of commercial enterprises. ISO does not, as a rule, pre-determine which particular type of organization may use its standards or other deliverables. As a result, we refer to possible ISO social responsibility deliverables without organizational specification."

ISO's Technical Management Board (TMB) established the advisory group to examine the question of whether standardization work by ISO could add value to already existing programs related to the scope of CSR. The advisory group is chaired by Daniel Gagnier, Senior Vice President, Corporate and External Affairs, of the Canadian multinational corporation, Alcan Inc., who also chairs ISO/TC 207, the ISO technical committee responsible for the ISO 14000 series of environmental management standards. The group currently comprises 21 participants comprising representatives of business, government regulators, trade unions and consumers chosen to represent a wide spectrum of stakeholder interests and geographic regions. If ISO decides to proceed with work on social responsibility, then the group recommends that the organization should review its processes for involving stakeholders in order to ensure the broadest possible acceptance of the output.

See related story: ISO Advisory Group Addresses Corporate Social Responsibility

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