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Standardizing Social Responsibility? New Perspectives on Guidance Documents and Management System Standards for Sustainable Development

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1 Author(s)
Hahn, R. ; Heinrich-Heine-Univ. Dusseldorf, Dusseldorf, Germany

In recent years, there has been increasing pressure on private players to take over responsibilities for social/environmental issues. However, a critical mindset toward private enterprises and their influence on societies often prevails. To help organization deal with this ambiguity, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) published ISO 26000 that provides guidance on the integration of social responsibility (SR) into management processes. The ISO emphasizes that ISO 26000 is not a management system (MS) standard. However, its practical value would be rather limited if it merely provided a common understanding of SR instead of also facilitating management routines and practices. A closer look at its content indeed reveals some distinct elements of a MS standard. This brings up the following questions. What kind of standard is ISO 26000? Which opportunities and constraints does ISO 26000 hold? Whether or not the current understanding of MS standards is sufficient to characterize ISO 26000? This paper comes to the conclusion that the current categorization of standards is not sufficient to fully comprehend ISO 26000. A new type of MS standard is developed. The potential benefits of the new standard, the managerial relevance, and specific limitations of ISO 26000 are discussed.

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Engineering Management, IEEE Transactions on  (Volume:59 ,  Issue: 4 )