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The ISO 26000 framework

This International Standard is intended to be useful to all types of organizations in the private, public and non profit sectors, whether large or small, and whether operating in developed or developing countries.

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Download ISO 26000 Framework

The content of ISO 26000 guidance standard is briefly described:


Clause 1 of the practical guide describes the issue and scope of ISO 26000. It also explains the objective of ISO 26000 and what ISO 26000 is and is not.

Terms and definitions

Clause 2 provides clarity about international terms used in the area of Social Responsibility. It includes definitions of for exaample: social responsibility, sustainable development, stakeholder, value and supply chain, due diligence and sphere of influence.

Understanding Social Responsibility

Clause 3 describes the context and concept of Social Responsibility. The SR concept was mainly only applied to businesses, while nowadays it applies to all types of organizations. The changing perspective on SR is also described. The concerns in society and the concerns of individual organizations are continually changing. A clear example of this is the focus on climate change. The relationship between social responsibility and sustainable development is explained. The clause includes guidance for small and medium-sized organizations on the use of this International Standard. Finally, the latest trends, such as globalization, ICT use, more articulate consumers and sustainability reporting are dealt with.

Seven principles of Social Responsibility

Clause 4 of ISO 26000 defines the seven fundamental SR principles that an organization should take into account when shaping social responsibility. These principles are as follows:

  • Accountability
  • Transparency
  • Ethical behaviour
  • Respect for stakeholder interests
  • Respect for the rule of law
  • Respect for international norms of behaviour
  • Respect for human rights.

Recognizing SR and engaging stakeholders

According to ISO 26000, an organization’s recognition of SR and engagement of stakeholders are two fundamental aspects of SR. Recognizing SR means identifying the impact of a company’s own decisions and activities and those of other organizations in the chain and scope. An organization should also be aware of this impact on the interests and needs of its stakeholders. Identifying and engaging stakeholders are, therefore, of central importance when organizations want to implement SR. This is described in Clause 5 of the practical guide.

Seven core subjects and 37 SR issues

Download ISO 26000 Core subjects

ISO 26000 distinguishes seven SR core subjects. These are extensively described in Clause 6 of the practical guide. The seven core subjects are :

  • Organizational governance
  • Human rights
  • Labour practices
  • The environment
  • Fair operating practices
  • Consumer issues
  • Community involvement and development

The basic idea, considerations, principles, description of the issues and the related actions and expectations of each core subject are described. The core subjects are dynamic, i.e. they can change as a result of a change in opinions on the environment (Planet) and/or society (People). The economic cornerstone of SR (Profit) is part of all seven core subjects, as is the focus on chain management. All seven core subjects are relevant for every organization. In total 37 SR issues have been described. Not all SR issues have to be relevant for every organization.

Implementation (integration) of Social Responsibility throughout the whole organization

Clause 7 of ISO 26000 extensively addresses the integration of SR in an organization (putting into practice). This includes guidance related to: understanding the social responsibility of an organization, integrating social responsibility throughout an organization, communication related to social responsibility, improving the credibility of an organization regarding social responsibility, reviewing progress and improving performance and evaluating voluntary initiatives for social responsibility.

Annex A: Examples of voluntary initiatives and tools for social responsibility

Presents a non-exhaustive list of voluntary initiatives and tools related to social responsibility that address aspects of one or more core subjects or the integration of social responsibility throughout an organization.

Annex B: Abbreviated terms

Contains abbreviated terms used in this International Standard.


Includes references to authoritative international instruments and ISO Standards that are referenced in the body of this International Standard as source material.