Codes and standards: Beware the impending chaos of ISO 26,000

ISO 26,000 has had a lot of airtime in Ethical Corporation in the last few years.

Here’s a recent article, free to all.

In a follow-up recent letter to Ethical Corporation, Adam Greene of the US Council for International Business pointed out a few fact which some readers may not have been aware of:

“….the decision was taken in the working group that ISO 26000 would not be certifiable.

However, it turns out that ISO’s national standards bodies are not bound by that decision, something that came as quite a surprise to many of us in the process.

Under the ISO rules, its national standards bodies are free to develop national variations of ISO 26000 for the sole purpose of offering certification – and many are. The latest example is the Danish standard DS 26001, where the title is obviously designed to link the product with ISO 26000.”

This, he argues, will lead to mass confusion on the basis that:

“…they create very real confusion in the marketplace by offering certification to 26000-like standards that the uninformed will clearly confuse with ISO 26000” and that:

“…rather than creating international standards in order to avoid many different national standards, ISO 26000 is being used by national standards bodies to create many different national standards so that they can sell certifications!”

Hence the title of this blog. If Adam is right, this is extremely worrying.

More GRI-like badges for “good behaviour” loom in the global market for good corporate school reports.

How this helps actual businesses become more sustainably responsible to wider stakeholders, including the environment, is less clear.

For more many companies, when it comes to corporate responsibility, policy still matters more than challenging positive outcomes. The worry is that the ISO situation above may encourage much more of the former than the latter.


For more on the exciting world of codes and standards, go here.

Meet people who deal with them every day, here. And if you are in the US, here.

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