The standard is shortened to SR, Social Responsibility, but abbreviations such as CSR – Corporate Social Responsibility or just CR – Corporate Responsibility – are used in everyday speech. The work of drawing up the new standard has taken five years and employed 450 experts from 99 countries. Interest groups from the business world, authorities and NGOs have also been included in the process.
“This is the biggest dialogue ever held between countries and international organisations,” says Ruth Brännvall.
Seven core subjects
Ruth is one of those involved in creating the standard and over the past four years has worked as an independent consultant. “In my work on social responsibility and international development, one of my clients was the Virgin Group and Sir Richard Branson,” explains Ruth, who founded Njord Management Consulting and works out of London and Stockholm.
ISO 26000 comprises seven core subjects – organisational governance, human rights,
labour practices, the environment, fair operating practices, consumer issues and community involvement and development.
A question of survival
For companies and organisations, working to the standard is very different from sponsoring individual charity projects. But what do companies gain from wanting to take greater responsibility than the law requires?
“It’s a question of survival for all of us – working to achieve sustainable development
and taking responsibility for the environment, the economy and social conditions.
Those who take an active interest in SR also strengthen their brand.”
From a purely financial point of view, working with the issues highlighted in ISO 26000 can also be profitable. Ruth Brännvall continues:
“Companies that work proactively on these issues show a better rise in value over time
compared with the average listed company.
Research also shows that companies with a noticeably poor record in taking responsibility for the environment and social and ethical issues fare less well in terms of their value.” Studies carried out in Sweden show that over half of consumers take it for granted that companies and organisations will work actively to take social responsibility. Just over 8 out of 10 are also prepared to pay more for
a product that comes from such a company.
Check the distribution chain
What opportunities do you see for the forest and paper industry to benefit from ISO
“Generally the focus is on ‘how’ instead of ‘what’. It should also be worth working with
the whole distribution chain – from harvesting to the product reaching the consumer.”
Together, all the stakeholders along the chain can work together – based on a lifecycle
perspective – and establish who takes responsibility for what, clarifying any grey
areas and finding scope for improvement that will produce both environmental and
Recycling and new niches
Another important area, according to Ruth Brännvall, is stimulating innovation and
working even more on recycling paper and paperboard.
“Here the key is to apply new thinking and find interesting niches. Furniture and clothing
are two areas where things have started to happen. There are bound to be other areas
You haven’t mentioned the environment and processes?
“I know that in this area a great deal of work is going into what I see as ‘hygiene
factors’ – for example replanting and constantly making the processes more efficient
and less heavy on resources,” says Ruth. The standard is already making an impression. In Sweden, the county councils – whose primary responsibility is healthcare – have agreed to introduce a joint procurement policy. This favours those who are committed to social responsibility on a broad front. Looking to the future, Ruth has no doubt that more purchasers in other countries – not least in the public sector – will follow suit.
Sir Richard Charles Nicholas Branson is a
British entrepreneur. He founded the Virgin
Group and was knighted by Queen Elizabeth
in 1999 for his business successes.