What is the relationship between ISO 26000 (Guidance on Social Responsibility) and the involvement of organisations in helping to achieve RoSPA’s vision of ‘Life free from serious accidental injury’?
At one level, particularly in relation to ‘labour practices’, it might seem limited to things like having adequate health safety management in place, which is covered of course by ISO 45001, the international standard for health and safety management. But then of course, there is ISO 39001 which deals with corporate road safety.
Other elements of the standard, such as a socially responsible approach to consumer issues, to the environment, to involvement in community development – not to mention fairness, openness and accountability – all suggest that ensuring corporate values, policies, strategies and plans to reduce unintentional injury should be a the heart of what it is to be a modern, socially responsible organisation. Safety is an all pervasive issue and something that lies at the heart of CSR.
ISO 26000 however only gives guidance on social responsibility but it seeks to define what it means, and what issues an organisation needs to address in order to operate in a socially responsible manner. And it suggests what is best practice in implementing social responsibility. It contains voluntary guidance, not requirements, and therefore, unlike ISO standards on OS&H, on quality and on the environment, it is not for use as a certification standard.
This recognises perhaps that CSR is a long journey and not a state of corporate grace that any organisation can achieve any time soon. It is a constant aspiration where there will always be distance between an organisation’s CSR goals and its operating reality. It is thus not a destination that will ever be reached but a way of businesses operating in a challenging world to deliver a whole variety of forms of stakeholder value while mitigating risks and being open to challenge about their goals and all aspects of their performance.
Safety and the protection of people from unintentional harms is a key part of that. And that is a whole lot more than just ensuring compliance with things like health and safety law, road traffic law, consumer safety law and so on (although that in itself is a fairly massive CSR challenge). It is ultimately about the real values and perceptions, which guide the people who make up the organisation at every level.
So, while it may be possible to audit CSR performance by reviewing progress in relation to all the key elements and their sub-components that are listed in 26000, another tell-tale approach might be to construct a ‘culture audit’ around a particular challenge. Because it goes right to the heart of the way an organisation operates, safety and accident prevention in their widest sense could well be one of the best culture threads to follow.
In the OS&H field there are variety of health safety culture measurement tools available (see EUOSHA). These look not just at espoused ‘O&H values’ (what people say) but the real perceptions of people (what they think privately) at different levels in an organisation – and it is worth bearing in mind that these are the vital things which ultimately keep workers and others safe when systems are stretched and ‘the chips are down’.
RoSPA would be more than willing to work with CSR committed organisations to build on these approaches to examine their overall approach to tackling preventable harms arising from their operations. While CSR is a commitment from the highest levels of management in an organisation, its delivery is actually all about what is really going on inside the hearts and heads of its people. Understanding in reality how they value and perceive these things could be a very useful diagnostic for looking at CSR health generally.