ISO 26000: A Practical Guide to Social Responsibility

Date: 26 Sep 2012
Venue: Millennium Plaza Hotel, Sh. Zayed Road, Dubai, UAE

The Arabia CSR Network – an organization whose primary objective is to actively engage companies in the region on corporate responsibility issues – recently collaborated with DNV – an international risk-management company to introduce the ISO 26000 in the Arab world. The workshop was conducted at the Millennium Plaza Hotel in Dubai.

The ISO 26000, although very recently launched in 2010, is being considered by many as the gold standard for social responsibility. It is intended to assist organizations in contributing to sustainable development. The ISO 26000 is a voluntary guidance standard that is flexible and adaptable to all kinds and sizes of organizations.

“The Arabia CSR Network is very well placed to provide this training to build the capacity of organizations and businesses in the region, mainly because it is a regionally rooted organization that has acquired an in-depth understanding of the benefits and challenges faced by organizations in their efforts to meet their Corporate Social Responsibility within the region’s unique limitations and possibilities,” said Habiba Al Marashi, President of Arabia CSR Network and the UN Global Compact GCC Network.

The voluntary International Standard, ISO 26000:2010 Guidance for Social Responsibility, has received overwhelming acceptance from more than 90 countries globally. DNV believes that the standard will become a major global reference point for social responsibility, setting the norm for both the conceptual understanding and the practical implementation of social responsibility in the time to come. The standard is a unique and remarkable achievement. The large and diverse ISO Working Group behind the standard has achieved a consensus definition of “social responsibility”. More than 400 delegates from all kinds of organizations took part in the negotiations, making ISO 26000 one of the biggest international multi-stakeholder initiatives in the area of social responsibility.

“DNV has been actively involved in the work on ISO 26000 since the very beginning, as one of only a few global certification bodies. As an Expert Delegate, DNV has taken part in all the ISO plenary meetings as well as the national mirror group in Norway. We helped develop this standard, because we believe it is an important initiative to drive sustainable conduct in organizations worldwide. The standard is ambitious. It is not perfect. It contains compromises and limitations. But, in the end ISO 26000 stands as a source of inspiration, full of ideas and practical guidance on how to integrate universally accepted principles on social responsibility into your organization’s strategy and everyday operations,” stated Sheriff Mekavi, Key Customers and Business Development Manager, DNV Business Assurance, Middle East & East Africa and Caspian Countries.

The standard sets out 7 Principles of social responsibility to guide organizations in this quest. These principles are considered critical to ensuring that an organization maximizes its contribution to sustainable development. They should direct the organization in its work on defining and implementing strategy, policy, and procedures. The ISO 26000 also covers themes such as Organizational governance, Human rights, Labour practices, Environment, Fair operating practices, Consumer issues and Community involvement and development. The ISO 26000 guidelines have been designed to make it easier for organizations to implement social responsibility via a step by step approach.

Also participating at the event was Etisalat UAE, an organization that is actively enhancing its commitment to sustainability through frameworks such as the ISO 26000 and the Global Reporting Initiative. Mr. Nasser bin Obood, Chief Government Relations and Communications Officer, Etisalat UAE, said that “In 2005 the Etisalat group introduced a new brand and a new strategy to undertake international expansion. This resulted in rapid growth – from having 4 million customers and operations in only one country, to having a footprint across West Africa to the Far East servicing nearly 170 million today. In the last 6 years these operations have been very successful and are contributing to the local economy. Now we are looking for ways to leverage synergies between the operations to ensure that our business has a powerful impact as a force for good.”

Commenting on today’s ISO 26000 event, Mr. Nasser bin Obood stated “the Etisalat group is deeply committed to implementing sustainability and corporate responsibility according to international best practice across its footprint and we feel that ISO 26000, GRI and the UNGC provide solid foundation to build upon. We are delighted to be a part of today’s forum on ISO 26000 and to share our journey.”

The workshop is one of many programs the Arabia CSR Network offers. It recently conducted a GRI training course that helped organizations communicate their sustainability performance using the most widely accepted reporting framework. The GRI complements the traditional business practice of developing financial reports. The GRI also address the non-financial aspects of economic, environmental, and social performance of organizations. The Arabia CSR Network is the first certified training partner in the Middle East and has trained more than 75 CSR professionals from 9 countries to prepare their sustainability reports.

The Network will also be conducting a forum and ceremony to mark the winners of the prestigious Arabia CSR Awards in October this year. The Awards program aims to evaluate, promote and improve on the achievements of companies in the area of sustainable development and CSR.