- CEO, The CSR Company
- Chairperson – Advisory Council, BlueSky CSR Company
- Chair of the Implementation Task Group within ISO Working Group Social Responsibility writing the ISO 26 000 standard – published November 2010.
1. Why do we require an ISO standard for Social Responsibility?
Social Responsibility is a vastly uncharted area and everybody claims to be doing something without any proof or any strategic direction. Activities like cleaning the beach are considered CSR just the same as a strategic plan to reduce the emissions of a factory. Therefore in the year, 2000 consumer organizations approached ISO (International Standards Organisation) to please develop a standard that would allow us to define what is Social Responsibility and allow for customers to identify companies and activities that would really fall under this remit. It took in total some 10 years, but the product is worth the effort. ISO 26000 gives a comprehensive overview of what Social Responsibility is all about and especially also on what it not is. It has a definition, it lays out principles that organizations need to follow if they want to call themselves socially responsible and then defines in seven core subjects, what organizations need to address and do when strategically implementing social responsibility. And finally, there is an implementation part, that helps organizations actually put the system in place. So it is also a kind of one-stop shopping for any interested organization to integrate social responsibility into their own management practices.
2. What type of organizations can use the ISO 26000: Guidance on Social Responsibility.
ISO 26000 is made and applicable to all kinds of organizations. So never mind if you are a multinational enterprise, a small rural NGO, a government entity, a family run business, ISO 26000 can support you in any way. It is also not limited to certain industries or countries, it is globally applicable in any kind of business. The only limitation is of course, that the business has to be legal. This universal approach is also documented in the language, the standard always speaks of organizations, and not of businesses or companies only. Currently most of the users are of course businesses, and here again, there is a clear trend to companies that are part of the international supply chain. Here buyers require the company to prove their social responsibility activities and the ISO 26000 is well placed to do exactly that. Further companies that want to differentiate themselves from their competitors by showing to customers that they are doing good, like to use the standard to prove this. And then there is a group of organizations where the owner simply believes that doing good is the right thing to do and does not want to invent the wheel again, but use an internationally recognized tool to support the integration into management practices.
3. How does ISO 26000 help in comparing the impact of 2 different types of social projects-, e.g. Water salinization and girl education?
In comparing the social responsibility of let’s say a water salination project versus girl school education, ISO 26000 is a very strong tool to measure and evaluate the usefulness, the materiality, the relevance and significance and the stakeholder view on these two projects. First of all, ISO 26000 clearly states, that charity is NOT CSR. CSR is about business HOW an organization manages its impacts. Charity is just directed to the outside without necessarily having any connection to the core business of the organization. So, the first measurement is all about: Is the activity related to the core business of the organization. That was very simple reasons. First and foremost – Sustainability. An organization will rather support an activity even in financially difficult times if it is related to the core business. If something has nothing to do with the company’s purpose, every sane CFO will cut these expenditures first. So, it is about the sustainability of the project, the project beneficiaries, AND sustainability for the organization itself. That is what ISO 26000 emphasizes. CSR is an investment, not a cost. It is about making money, not spending money. Once this is understood, then ISO 26000 is the ideal tool to implement that approach. Further down the line, once the project has been chosen based on the relationship to the core business, on stakeholder expectations, on relevance and significance for the company, then ISO 26000 further supports by guiding the organization on how to do it. Step by step the standard explains how to move forward, without having to take wrong exits or misleading trails. And then, once the projects are implemented it supports assurance of the impact of the project, its success, its stakeholder acceptance by defining the parameters by which the project can be measured. It sets the framework for impact measurement if stakeholder expectations have been met if it supports the organization’s own goals and supports achieving the principles of Social Responsibility as laid out in the standard.
4. Do you think providing Assurance for CSR Projects is useful for Indian Business? Why
Assurance is always useful, not only for Indian businesses. There is the old management saying that what you cannot measure you cannot manage. Also, social responsibility projects need to be managed. They are not black holes in which you dump money and nobody has an idea of what is happening, only because there is a legal obligation to do so. This money needs to be spent wisely. it needs to support the organization itself, by gaining reputation, by differentiating from competitors, by the ease of public affairs activities, by customer trust, by band value. It also needs to fulfill the purpose of the project as such, education, health, environment, whatever the topic might be. For that an external assurance is key. Otherwise, the activities are prawn to insider deals, corruption, nepotism or just simply misconduct of means because of negligence. Only a third party assurance can make sure that the money is spent as planned, the project achieves the set targets and it actually creates a positive impact. It is very much also a risk tool for organizations. A CSR project gone wrong is a reputational risk. This can be managed by a third party assurance
5. What can somebody do to reach this knowledge and make Indian business work better.
There are many ways of improving the knowledge of CSR, especially in India. But as somebody looking for a good course or lecture I would look at the credentials of the teacher and his/her understanding of the subject matter. If they are trying to tell you about how to spend your money on community projects, stay away. If they try to tell you how you can make money through your community projects, these are the ones you need to listen to. CSR Company International together with BlueSky offers various training in India and outside for all purses. We have awareness sessions and we have in-depth certified training. Especially we are looking at educating internal auditors for social responsibility based on ISO 26000 because this is going to be the growing trend in India and we need the qualified manpower to do this. Assurances will be the thing in the next few years in India, based on the company act 135 and the enormous amounts of money spent on CSR in this country. And of course, we offer a unique MBA program, the Porsche under the global MBA programs. It is called „International Corporate Social Responsibility Management“, runs for a year and a half, is an e-learning course which means you do not have to relocate anywhere, it is in English and it is completely based on ISO 26000. So it gives you the best tools to really make a difference. And, just as the cherry on the icing, it is at the Ferdinand Porsche University, one of the most prestigious private Universities in Europe and actually globally. I have the privilege of being the program director for this MBA: