Reasons for Social Responsibility

תאריך: 07/03/2011
במסגרת תחרות שהתקיימה בארגון ISO לכתיבת מאמרים בנושא תקן 26000 ISO ואחריות חברתית, פורסם, בין היתר, גם מאמרו של יאן וולפסון, חבר בוועדה הישראלית לאחריות חברתית. אנו גאים לפרסם אותו גם באתר מכון התקנים הישראלי

We have neighbours in several dimensions. There’s the family next door and the one across the road – and there are also people that smile at us each day. Do you ever consider that later generations may also be our neighbours? We wouldn’t dream of throwing waste into our next door neighbour’s garden, but perhaps, without thinking, we may throw waste into our future neighbours’ “garden”.

On the other hand, just as we can lend tools to our next door neighbour to help him preserve and enhance the quality of his garden, with some thought, we can also provide tools to our future neighbours to help them preserve and enhance the quality of their “garden”. This is what sustainability is all about – awareness of the importance of all neighbours – present and future – and our will to manage the quality of our lives and environment without damaging their chance of preserving and enhancing the quality of their life and the environment.

Whilst we as individuals have an important role in promoting sustainability, we know that when a number of people come together in the form of an organization, there is a potential to create a powerful force far greater than the sum of individual capabilities. Social responsibility can be seen as the mechanism by which a group of people constituting an organization can significantly contribute to sustainability.

On the face of it, preserving our world and our quality of life means preventing or mitigating the negative impacts of our activities. This is correct, but it is only part of the equation. Avoiding negatives is important, but creating positives is equally important.

Aligning an organization’s way of thinking with sustainability objectives can create significant positive contributions, often of immense social and environmental benefit, helping its core activities and resources make the world a better place. There is another element to the equation. Social responsibility is also about influencing, within our reasonable capability, those around us to adopt social responsibility principles. This is particularly relevant to those with whom we interact directly, for example partner organizations in a project or supply chain partners. But we can often also influence, to one extent or another, others within a wider sphere of influence. This allows us to contribute to a snowball effect promoting the principles of social responsibility.

ISO 26000, Guidelines for Social Responsibility, is a comprehensive guide that presents social responsibility for those who are new to the field, while serving as an authority for those who are already acquainted with the subject but wishing to acquire further knowledge. This remarkable document is the result of an innovative process based on cooperation of six diversified stakeholder groups: consumers, government, industry, labor, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and service, support, research and others (SSRO), with a balance between developed and developing countries integrated into the process.

Achieving consensus from this diverse group may sound like science fiction, but through explanation, cooperation, understanding and a strong common objective, a document has been drafted that represents a monumental wealth of experience and knowledge in social responsibility.
It is easy to imagine that the standard is designed for large and wealthy conglomerates that have money to spare for the “cherry on top”, but this is not the case. It is gradually being understood throughout the world that social responsibility is no longer optional, but is in effect a license to operate that, in the long term, an organization cannot afford to be without.

With this in mind, the ISO 26000 standard was designed for effective use by all types of organizations in the private, public or non-profit sectors, both large and small and including huge multinationals, offices, hospitals and the baker down the street.

The main purpose of this exceptional document is to help organizations understand the issues and mechanisms by which they may contribute to sustainability, and to create the motivation needed to put this understanding into practice. It supplies the knowledge required to create active and passive interfaces – cooperation and communication – with stakeholders as an essential element of the social responsibility process.

Issues addressed include organizational governance, human rights, labor practices, the environment, fair operating practices, consumer issues and community involvement and development. Furthermore, the standard explains how to manage interfaces with stakeholders and how to integrate social responsibility practices into an organization.

As it stands, ISO 26000 does not provide a management system framework for direct implementation, but rather supplies an insight into the overriding principles of social responsibility and knowledge of the crucial issues that should be addressed by an organization. Creating awareness of these issues will certainly help point an organization in the right direction. The elements of the standard may, however, also be integrated into existing management systems such as ISO 9000, Quality, ISO 14001, Environment, OHSAS 18001, Occupational Health and Safety and others as a gateway to making social responsibility issues an integral part of day-to-day activities and generally a part of the organizational culture.
Although our future neighbours cannot be seen, they are no less real than the neighbour next door. The fact that they don’t inhabit our world at the moment doesn’t mean they won’t in the future. In fact, that is one thing that is an absolute certainty.

The ISO 26000 standard provides the tools that enable an organization to progress toward social responsibility by taking into account present co-citizens and future neighbours of the planet in its decisions and actions.Let us hope that the Social Responsibility “snowball” will continue to gather momentum with the aid of the ISO 26000 standard for a better and more sustainable future.

About the author
Yan Wolfson was born in England but now lives in Israel and works for Bromine Compounds Ltd. in the fields of social responsibility and quality assurance. He was appointed Israeli expert (industry) in the ISO Working Group on Social Responsibility. He was recipient of the 2006 National Outstanding Auditor of the Year award, and the 2009 National Outstanding Quality Worker of the Year award. He is the Israeli coordinator for "Responsible Care" (Program to promote responsibility and transparency in the global chemical industry). Mr. Wolfson is also the founder and first musical director of his company’s choir.