There is increasing demand from consumers to have sustainable and socially responsible practices at every step of the food production chain, which is creating a real need for internationally agreed systems and processes.
What is social responsibility?
Social responsibility has become one of the most important factors to measure your organization’s performance and this is true of all sectors of society. Social responsibility is an organization’s legal and voluntary duty to consider the social and environmental impact of its decisions and activities. A corporate responsibility strategy outlines the ways that an organization contributes to sustainable development, engages with its stakeholders and behaves ethically.
ISO 26000 - Guidance on social responsibility
One response to this demand is some new guidance for the agri-food sector on implementing the international social responsibility standard, ISO 26000. PD ISO/TS 26030 - Social responsibility and sustainable development – Guidance on using ISO 26000:2010 in the food chain, was published earlier this year.
The new guidance offers the agri-food sector some specific ideas on how to operate to ensure sustainable outcomes as outlined in ISO 26000, which is designed to help organizations operate ethically and transparently.
Within the new document, there is guidance on how an organization in the food production chain can contribute to sustainable development whilst continuing to take into account local laws and regulations, and consideration of the needs and expectations of stakeholders. The idea is that this will assist all types and sizes of organizations in the food chain, from primary production organizations such as farms, to other food businesses, cooperatives, processors and retailers, in their efforts to develop activities which will result in more socially responsible outcomes, as framed in the ISO 26000 guidance.
Some of the areas directly covered in the standard are:
- Organizational governance – integration with strategic plans, reviews, accountability and legal compliance
- Human rights – due diligence; economic, social and cultural rights
- Labour practices – social dialogue, OHS, human development and training
- The environment – prevention of pollution, sustainable resource use, climate change adaptation
- Fair operating practices – anti-corruption, fair competition, responsible political involvement
- Consumer issues – fair marketing, sustainable consumption
- Community involvement and development – technology development and access, social investment.
The sort of challenges noted for the food chain for the topic of fair operating practices are, as an example, to “adopt responsible purchasing behaviour that takes into consideration the specific characteristics of agricultural production (atomization of production structures, price volatility, cyclical nature of agricultural production, etc.) and maintain the economic sustainability of the various partners in the food chain;”
The agri-food sector plays a huge role in the sustainable development of our world. And so using PD/ISO/TS 26030 should help both improve social responsibility in the food industry and have a positive impact in general. Use of the guidance will, for example, help food organizations contribute to many of the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals, not just goal No 2. zero hunger, but also other notable goals such as goal No. 8, on decent work and economic growth, and goal No 12 on responsible consumption and production.
This direct link to the UN SDGs is reinforced by the participation of the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in the development of the document.
In addition, this ISO technical specification will help to harmonize the various approaches to sustainability in the sector at the international level, giving users a competitive edge.
PD/ISO/TS 26030 is a food-sector application of ISO 26000, Guidance on social responsibility, ISO’s flagship standard for social responsibility. It was developed by ISO technical committee ISO/TC 34, Food products, the secretariat of which is held by AFNOR, ISO’s member for France.
Organizations must embed social responsibility in their operations and mission. Standards can help to not only taking action but demonstrate their commitment to sustainable development and community support.