Speaking at last year’s annual meeting of the ISO Committee on developing country matters (DEVCO), Cecile Fruman, World Bank Group Director, Trade and Competitiveness Global Practices, put into context just how wide-ranging standards are today.
She said: 'ISO’s portfolio of more than 21,000 standards provides practical tools for all three dimensions of sustainable development: economic, environmental and societal.'
However, there are certain key standards which support sustainable development more broadly.
The extent to which an organization contributes to sustainable development and its impact on society and the environment is known as 'social responsibility'. It is increasingly becoming a critical measure of performance, with it influencing everything from an organization’s reputation to its ability to attract high-calibre employees.
ISO 26000 ‘Guidance on social responsibility’ was dubbed the 'most comprehensive guidance of what an organization should do to contribute to sustainable development' by Fruman.
It provides guidance on how organizations can operate in an ethical and transparent way that contributes to sustainable development, while taking into account the expectations of stakeholders, applicable laws and international forms of behaviour.
ISO 26000 offers 450 recommendations related to the SDGs, addressing seven core areas of social responsibility:
- Organizational governance
- Human rights
- Labour practices
- The environment
- Fair operating practices
- Consumer issues
- Community involvement and development.
The ISO 14000 family of standards provides practical tools for organizations looking to manage their environmental responsibilities.
ISO 14001 ‘Environmental management systems’ focuses on the environmental systems that allow organizations to manage their responsibilities but also covers specific approaches such as environmental audits, communications, labelling and life cycle analysis, as well as managing environmental challenges, such as the impact of climate change. The success of ISO 14001 as a tool for implementing a more systematic process of environmental management has been the growth of accredited certification, with ISO reporting in 2016 a year-on-year increase of 8% between 2014 and 2015, more than double the average 3% increase in other ISO certificates.
The full suite of environmental management standards support many of the SDGs, such as those relating to clean water and sanitation, greenhouse gas management and climate action, life below water and life on land.
In addition to ISO 26000 and the ISO 14000 family of standards, there are other key standards which pertain to numerous areas of the SDGs, one recent, innovative example being BSI’s BS 8001 ‘Circular Economy’. This standard can support alignment to SDG 12 on resource consumption by providing organizations with guidance on the principles of ‘circularity’ (where resources used to manufacture products or deliver services are recovered at their highest quality and kept in circulation for as long as possible).