Always funny, the Eco-Bunnies. “Who?!”, you ask? The Eco-Bunnies! These climate-concious critters have been drawn up to bring attention to another carbon off-setting programme, this time run by a major travel agency. But that’s not important. Have a look at this video:
What do you take from this? Maybe some laughter, maybe inspiration, but what I want to highlight is the essence of (Corporate) Social Responsibility: “Everyone is responsible for their own footprint”. When you stretch this analogy and replace “everyone” by “every organisation” the challenge for every organisation regarding their social responsibility becomes evident. In what way does your organisation leave a footprint on society at large? And I’m talking about a footprint from both an environmental perspective (carbon, water, waste, etc.), as well as from a social and societal perspective.
When you want to draw the footprint of your organisation, where do you start and where does it end? What does it include and what are its biggest components? These are ever challenging and more frequently emerging questions, and I have not even raised the issue of the decent but fair profit that, for many organisations, should accompany addressing these challenges. All in all, managing the social responsibility of your organisation is a matter of choosing your battles, focusing your time and money on the right issues and engaging with your stakeholders. This is a unique step-by-step process for every organisation. For example, where Nike addresses child labour, a British farmer would not consider this a major issue. Farmers, however, may learn from their neighbours that the crop left-overs can be fermented in an anaerobic digester to produce biogas and hereby reduce CO2-emissions. So there are many issues, many solutions and many opinions that confront organisations wanting, needing or being pressured to address their Social Responsibility.
To try to answer them all, the International Standardisation Organization (ISO), together with more than 450 experts from nearly 100 ISO member countries, developed ISO 26000. This standard is meant to give organisations guidance regarding their social responsibility. Guidance being our aim, we are not talking about a certificate or a check list. However, the guideline does have many other objectives. One, for example, is to support organisations in defining their social responsibilities and acting in accordance with these responsibilities in order to contribute to sustainable development. Another objective is to increase the credibility of SR claims. Already many standards exist on specific areas of CSR, such as SA 8000 on decent working conditions and the ISO 14001 on environmental management. The guideline tries to make the connection with existing and familiar systems, and aims to offer a framework for the practical translation of international treaties, agreements and conventions in the field of CSR. ISO 26000 hopefully makes the conundrum of dealing with the many possibly relevant aspects of CSR many organisations have, a little easier to solve. The guideline contributes to obtaining a comprehensive but limited overview, hence making it easier for organisations to engage in CSR.
Do the Eco-Bunnies really care?
I would forgive you for thinking “What do bunnies care about standards and guidance documents?!”. As long as you get your organisation to minimise its overall footprint in a coherent and focussed manner, the bunnies are probably happy. But if you, in the meantime, do need some three-dimensional help, have a look at ISO 26000: it may enlighten your spirit, plant that one valuable seed or give you the credibility you need.
Lars Moratis and Timo Cochius
AVAILABLE NOW: Lars and Timo are the authors of ISO 26000 – The Business Guide to the New Standard on Social Responsibility. This book will be an essential resource for the thousands of organisations that need an expert view on how the new standard works, where they stand in relation to it, and how they can work towards developing their CSR efforts in line with its content.