ISO looks into standards for corporate social responsibility

Source: ISO, 17 September 2001

ISO’s Committee on consumer policy (COPOLCO) is carrying out a feasibility study on standards for corporate social responsibility and has launched an online forum to gather stakeholder views.
The forum, hosted by the Canadian Office of Consumer Affairs, has been set up to facilitate worldwide discussion of the possible role of standards in defining the elements of corporate social responsibility. It is designed to provide a mechanism for increasing awareness and promoting constructive discussion of new and existing corporate social responsibility initiatives, and their relevance to existing or potential standards projects.

"The reason for COPOLCO to take up the matter is that an increasing number of consumers are expressing their concern regarding the social integrity of corporations in their operations in the global marketplace. In this field, ISO International Standards could play a useful role in laying out guidelines or looking at specific areas where defining conduct could be helpful," said Dr. Nils Ringstedt, Chairman of COPOLCO.

"An Environics Millennium survey – conducted by Environics International – of 25 000 people in 23 developed and developing countries indicates that public expectations of large companies acting in a reasonable way are both high and universal. According to the survey’s findings, 79 % felt that large companies should be held "completely responsible" for protecting the health and safety of workers, 73 % for protecting the environment, and 72 % for avoiding child labour," said Dr. Ringstedt.

Corporate social responsibility refers to the overall relationship of the corporation with all of its stakeholders. These include customers, employees, communities, owners/ investors, government, suppliers and competitors.

Examples of corporate social responsibility include investment in community outreach, employee relations, creation and maintenance of employment, environmental stewardship and financial performance. The online Forum is therefore of potential interest to public authorities, including international organizations, businesses of any size, non-governmental organizations and consumers.

"A growing number of companies have recognized the business benefits of corporate social responsibility policies and practices. Companies which take these issues seriously not only achieve benefits to society; they can also enhance their reputation, improve their competitiveness and strengthen their risk management," said Dr. Ringstedt.

Created as a result of a recommendation emanating from a COPOLCO meeting earlier this year, the Forum operates as a list-serve. E-mail postings are sent to every member of the Forum, and there is no cost to participate. To join the online forum, contact the forum facilitator, Dr. Kernaghan Webb, senior legal policy advisor and chief of research at the Canadian Office of Consumer Affairs, at

One of COPOLCO’s working groups dealing with "Consumer protection in the global market" will study the matter further and deliver its recommendations to COPOLCO by June 2002. At the initiation of the Trinidad and Tobago Bureau of Standards, ISO/COPOLCO is organizing a workshop on corporate social responsibility, which will take place on 10 June 2002, in Port-of-Spain.