What is the link between sustainable development and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)? Behind the notion of CSR are the founding principles of transparent and ethical behavior in accordance with the ISO 26000 standard and fully contributing to sustainable development.

What is the purpose of ISO 26000? It is not a management system standard, and therefore does not require certification. This voluntary standard outlines actions in favor of responsible and ethical behavior towards the planet and its population. Both the public and private sectors are concerned by ISO 26000.

Reminder on the ISO 26000 standard and the CSR approach

What is the ISO 26000 standard?

ISO 26000

The ISO 26000 standard provides a concrete definition of CSR (7 principles) in order to achieve social and environmental objectives.
The content of the ISO 26000 standard is divided into seven articles and two annexes:

  • the first two articles dealing with the scope and explanation of the key terms of the standard (origins and characteristics of social responsibility). Appendix B explains all the abbreviations in the standard;
  • Articles 3 to 5 aiming to contextualize the notion of social responsibility (factors, effective application within VSEs/SMEs, identification by a company of its social responsibility and that of its stakeholders through its policies and practices in its sphere of influence);
  • Articles 6 and 7 setting out guidelines on the core issues (with their scope of action) and the integration of CSR (dialogue, communication on commitments, improving credibility with progress review and performance assessment).

Appendix A provides tools and examples of voluntary initiatives related to social responsibility. This list of examples addresses one or more of the core issues.

The implementation of ISO 26000, through the 7 main principles, promotes a common understanding in the field of social responsibility and encourages organizations to not only comply with the law, but to go beyond it for a voluntary commitment beneficial to humanity. The ISO 26000:2010 standard correlated with CSR has a positive impact on a company's relationship with its stakeholders and an impact on its eco-friendly reputation. Its latest version dates from 2017 and thousands of companies have adopted it worldwide.

The challenges of CSR policy

Each company involved in the voluntary CSR approach must behave as a good corporate citizen, i.e. proactively demonstrate its performance, which is measured by its level of commitment to carrying out activities for the benefit of society and the environment. These actions are set out in the CSR policy:

  • good resource management (or good governance) practices
  • social equity
  • biodiversity balance.

A company's social responsibility policy covers the promotion of sustainable development around the balance of the triple bottom line in an organizational citizenship perspective: corporate profits, planet resources and better life for humans. Any irresponsible behavior by a company or organization can alter its business model and weigh on its credibility.

In 2016, the Holmes Report revealed that

  • on the one hand, 75% of consumers take action (comments or boycott 1 out of 4 consumers) against companies that behave irresponsibly and risk losing 39% of their potential customers
  • on the other hand, organizations known for their social responsibility initiatives attract 83% of professional investors (lower risk due to greater transparency).

A company's CSR policy translates its efforts into concrete positive effects and results, palpable at the level of its ecosystem, and not just words.

Common fields of action of ISO 26000 and CSR

International voluntary standard for the social responsibility of organizations and companies, the architecture of the ISO 26000 addresses several headings in relation to the definition and implementation of the CSR approach.

areas of actionISO 26000RSE
promote sustainable developmentXX
integration, understanding and communication for engagementXX
socially responsible and environmentally friendly behaviorXX
building productive relationships with local authorities, media and communities X
improved credibilityXX
demonstrate corporate responsibility (social license to operate)X 
health and well-being of society (stakeholders)XX

Several CSR themes are addressed by the voluntary ISO 26000 standard, including human rights, labour relations and consumer issues, good business practices, and community and local development. This standard describes two main practices of corporate social responsibility, on the one hand the impact of decisions and activities on the environmental and social scale, and on the other hand the consideration and dialogue with stakeholders.

Around the principles of CSR and their explanation

7 key questions on the responsibility of an organization according to ISO 26000

Governance (CSR) must prioritize the company's performance through the principles of continuous improvement, improve customer and stakeholder satisfaction, and address global issues. This principle is materialized by the publication of the CSR balance sheet (reporting summarizing the actions by period and fields).

The respect of human rights and protection at work based on ethical behavior (CSR) must allow to better take into account and manage social responsibility through cultural and societal diversity of companies and organizations (ISO 26000). This responsibility is characterized by actions and ethical behavior (honesty, fairness and integrity): it is characterized by a human management.

The respect of the principle of equality and practices and the respect of international standards of behavior (CSR) must be interpreted by the framework of fair competition and the prohibition of corruption, the application and enrichment of ISO standards, government regulations (full compliance with the laws in each country). International conventions applicable by each organization.
A permanent watch on new legislation allows us to demonstrate an organization's commitment to these two principles, or to the updating of standards of social and environmental practices.

Transparency and recognition of stakeholders' interests (CSR) are three major principles related to

  • identifying and communicating with stakeholders to understand their needs (ISO 26000)
  • highlighting the company's initiatives to the public (ISO 26000)
  • accountability (ISO 26000).
    In the application of the CSR strategy, the interests of customers, suppliers, consumers and employees must be integrated into the decision-making process.

Analysis of the 7 core questions of ISO 26000

ISO 26000 topicsExplanations
Governance (Core Question 1)encourage a decision-making process on transparency, accountability and ethicsimprove the management systemdefine the responsible dimension of this systemorganize a management system according to the relational aspect with the different stakeholders
Human Rights (Core Question 2)fight against abuses, discrimination and complicity raise awareness on duty of care, rights (civil, labor, social, cultural and political) prohibit child labor remedy human rights violations
 Labour Relations (Core Question 3)establishing social dialogue and social protection (employees and subcontractors for responsible employment) developing human capital and promoting health and safety at work motivating relationships and employment (safety, continuous training)
 Environment (Core Question 4)minimizing environmental impact preventing pollution and protecting the environment (optimal use of resources with energy saving and eco-responsible behavior or accountability)reducing the footprint and seeking alternative raw materialsrespecting biodiversity (life cycle and natural habitats) making responsible purchases
Legality and ethical behaviour (Core Question 5)Deal ethically for harmonious business relationships (competitors, suppliers, investors, government agencies and customers). Focus on transparency of practices, actions (interaction with others) and fight against corruption promote social responsibility in the value chain (fair competition, property rights, employee training, clear communication policy on political commitments)
Consumer Rights (Core Question 6)to offer products and services according to a practice of equitable and sustainable social developmentto protect the health and the life of the consumers (transparent information, traceability and protection of the private life)to sensitize with the concept of sustainable consumptionto ensure the distribution for all of the essential products and services
 Local and Community Development (Core question 7)actively participate in the local economic and social fabric (support for institutions, promotion of culture and education)commit to human values (creation and promotion of jobs, creation of wealth, promotion of health)take into account the needs of society (training, sports, culture, leisure, education)invest locally (aid programs, sponsorship, training of young people in difficulty)

The 7 principles of CSR are derived from the ISO 26000 standard: this international standard defines CSR and proposes guidelines for companies according to the UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). However, of the seven principles, two are essential in the field of CSR:

  • transparency
  • stakeholder interests.

Understanding the representation of the 7 core issues of ISO 26000: sustainable performance

This representation of the seven central questions of ISO 26000 on the CSR approach presents :

  • in the center, the theme of Governance (6.2)
  • in the upper periphery, the themes of Human Rights (6.3), Community (local development 6.8) and Working conditions (6.4)
  • on the periphery, bottom left, the themes concerning consumer rights (6.7) and fair practices (6.6)
  • finally, at the bottom, the theme of the environment (6.5).

This representation of the 7 core issues is a holistic approach to the engagement of societal issues. This representation means that there is an interdependence between the seven key issues of ISO 26000 in a CSR approach. The objective of taking into account these 7 principles is to balance the interests of the stakeholders of an organization's ecosystem (companies, associations, sectors) to achieve a sustainable performance project.

Around social responsibility: current issues

Adopter un comportement responsable pour le développement durable

Sustainable development in the field of health and social welfare, stakeholder needs, and respect for the law: these are the three goals of CSR and ISO 26000.

CSR is inseparable from the concept of sustainable development, it considers the performance of an organization under three aspects: economic, social and environmental. Three dimensions that characterize the concept of sustainable development (responsible).

By taking advantage of the CSR approach according to the ISO 26000 standard, a company adopts a behavior :

  • socially and economically responsible
  • respectful of the environment.

The protection of biodiversity, the rehabilitation of natural habitats, the prevention of pollution and the sustainable use of resources, the mitigation of climate change and the accountability of practices, the core issues of CSR are in line with the objectives of sustainable development. Among the seven CSR core issues are actions to improve the quality of life of people in contact with the company, behind the environmental component.
Nowadays, any company manager must consider environmental concerns at the same level as his economic interests: it is therefore a question for him and his organization to increase his activity without threatening future generations.

CSR: still an emerging concept in Africa?

How can a company use the iso 26000 standard to deploy its CSR approach? Bringing together the three fundamental pillars of CSR and sustainable development is still a challenge for many organizations, especially companies on the continent. The responsible approach to CSR means supporting or advancing economic performance by balancing productivity with environmental and social actions that are fair to the planet and humanity.
The internalization of this CSR social technology is in its infancy in sub-Saharan Africa, the voluntary actions of economic actors are similar to palliative measures in view of several state failures with the provision of some services and basic goods.

If in Europe, the CSR policy reflects the will to put forward the requirements of sustainable development within each organization, on the African continent the coupling of sustainable development and CSR still represents a real challenge.
How can companies on the African continent benefit from the application of the 7 principles of CSR? Decision-makers and managers must identify the company's social responsibility within its sphere of influence and among its stakeholders.
Then, the company and its members must analyze the core issues and the CSR principles with their respective areas of action.
The company must be able to integrate CSR into its decision-making process and activities (CSR policy, corporate culture, competence development, communication strategy).

Launched on November 1, 2010, the ISO CSR standard has its limits. The application of a single standard to all sectors of the economy is problematic, which is why labels and variations of ISO 26000 exist, such as ISO 26030 in the agri-food sector (food chain) or CSR reference labels (training organizations, home health, social housing, local authorities, VSEs, digital service companies, banks, etc.). These CSR labels lead to certification.

The labels and 7 CSR principles, the ISO 26000 and the three CSR pillars: these are the tools available to organizations in the implementation of a governance on social and environmental reflection and actions.

Extrend Consulting Madagascar helps all types of organizations to improve their social responsibility performance. Discover our expertise in auditing and supporting the good management of stakeholders through the implementation of ISO 26000. We are also your partner to optimize step by step your CSR approach as a strategic advantage for your company. We can help you to evaluate with our agents the CSR policy in your company on the basis of each of the 7 pillars of the ISO 26000 (strong points, continuous improvement tracks, comparison of your positioning with your competitors, state of the art on the realization of the 17 ODD).
Finally, we support you in the certification of your company through a management system (ISO 45001, 37001, 31000, 9000, 14001 and 50001 standards, BSCI, GOTS…).