ISO 26000/SA8000 – Corporate Social Responsibility – Social Accountability

Corporate Social Responsibility – Guidance on Social Responsibility

ISO, the International Organization for Standardization, launched an International Standard providing guidelines for social responsibility (SR) named ISO 26000 or simply ISO SR. It was released on 1 November 2010. Its goal is to contribute to global sustainable development, by encouraging business and other organizations to practice social responsibility to improve their impacts on their workers, their natural environments and their communities.

ISO 26000 is a voluntary guidance standard – it does not contain requirements such as those used when a standard is offered for “certification”. There is a certain learning curve associated with using ISO 26000, because there is no specific external reward – certification – explicitly tied to ISO 26000. ISO recommends that users say, for example, that they have “used ISO 26000 as a guide to integrate social responsibility into our values and practices.”

Key Principles and Core Subjects of ISO 26000

The Seven Key Principles, advocated as the roots of socially responsible behavior, are:

  • Accountability
  • Transparency
  • Ethical behavior
  • Respect for stakeholder interests (stakeholders are individuals or groups who are affected by, or have the  ability to impact, the organization’s actions)
  • Respect for the rule of law
  • Respect for international norms of behavior
  • Respect for human rights

The Seven Core Subjects, which every user of ISO 26000 should consider, are:

  • Organizational governance
  • Human rights
  • Labor practices
  • Environment
  • Fair operating practices
  • Consumer issues
  • Community involvement and development

SA8000

Social Accountability

SA8000 is an auditable certification standard that encourages organizations to develop, maintain, and apply socially  acceptable practices in the workplace. It was developed in 1997 by Social Accountability International, formerly the Council on Economic Priorities, by an advisory board consisting of trade unions, NGOs, civil society organizations and companies. The SA8000 streamlines the complexities of navigating industry and corporate codes to create a common language and standard for measuring social compliance. As it can be applied worldwide to any company in
any industry, it is an extremely useful tool in measuring, comparing, and verifying social accountability in the workplace.

Performance criteria

It also requires compliance with eight performance criteria, as outlined on the Social Accountability International website.

  • Child Labor: No use or support of child labor; policies and written procedures for remediation of children  found to be working in situation; provide adequate financial and other support to enable such children to
    attend school; and employment of young workers conditional.
  • Forced and Compulsory Labor: No use or support for forced or compulsory labor; no required ‘deposits’ –  financial or otherwise; no withholding salary, benefits, property or documents to force personnel to continue
    work; personnel right to leave premises after workday; personnel free to terminate their employment; and no use nor support for human trafficking.
  • Health and Safety: Provide a safe and healthy workplace; prevent potential occupational accidents; appoint senior manager to ensure OSH; instruction on OSH for all personnel; system to detect, avoid, respond to
    risks; record all accidents; provide personal protection equipment and medical attention in event of work-related injury; remove, reduce risks to new and expectant mothers; hygiene- toilet, potable water, sanitary food storage; decent dormitories- clean, safe, meet basic needs; and worker right to remove from imminent danger.
  • Freedom of Association and Right to Collective Bargaining: Respect the right to form and join trade  unions and bargain collectively. All personnel are free to: organize trade unions of their choice; and bargain collectively with their employer. A company shall: respect right to organize unions & bargain collectively; not interfere in workers’ organizations or collective bargaining; inform personnel of these rights & freedom from retaliation; where law restricts rights, allow workers freely elect representatives; ensure no discrimination against personnel engaged in worker organizations; and ensure representatives access to workers at the workplace.
  • Discrimination: No discrimination based on race, national or social origin, caste, birth, religion, disability,  gender, sexual orientation, union membership, political opinions and age. No discrimination in hiring, remuneration, access to training, promotion, termination, and retirement. No interference with exercise of personnel tenets or practices; prohibition of threatening, abusive, exploitative, coercive behavior at workplace or company facilities; no pregnancy or virginity tests under any circumstances.
  • Disciplinary Practices: Treat all personnel with dignity and respect; zero tolerance of corporal punishment,  mental or physical abuse of personnel; no harsh or inhumane treatment.
  • Working Hours: Compliance with laws & industry standards: normal workweek, not including overtime,  shall not exceed 48 hours; 1 day off following every 6 consecutive work days, with some exceptions; overtime is voluntary, not regular, not more than 12 hours per week; required overtime only if negotiated in CBA.
  • Remuneration: Respect right of personnel to living wage; all workers paid at least legal minimum wage;  wages sufficient to meet basic needs & provide discretionary income; deductions not for disciplinary purposes, with some exceptions; wages and benefits clearly communicated to workers; paid in convenient manner – cash or check form; overtime paid at premium rate; prohibited use of labor-only contracting, short- term contracts, false apprenticeship schemes to avoid legal obligations to personnel.