After over five years and nearly 2,500 written comments, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) has announced that it will release a final draft of ISO 26000 (international standard for social responsibility) for a two-month vote (August and September) by ISO member countries. Following the vote, it will become published as a full-fledged ISO International Standard by November, 2010. This new standard will be in the form of a guidance document like ISO 14004 (environmental management system guidance). You will not be able to certify to this standard. Instead, by using the information in the document, your company will be able to convert an ISO 14001 (EMS) into a sustainability management system (SMS).
So what does this mean to you? While the standard refers to “social responsibility,” it is really outlining what most people are calling “sustainability.” They have taken all of the three responsibilities of sustainability and divided them into manageable “core subjects.” For example, there are core subjects on environment, consumer issues, community involvement, labor practices and a number of other social and economic topics. The current draft has one of the best set of consensus information on each of these topics and how they can relate to a sustainability program. Like other ISO documents, this standard is not prescriptive. The guidance clearly states that companies can select the core subjects that pertain to their operations and determine what each should cover. If you wish to start with environmental sustainability, that is fine. Social and economic core subjects can be added at a later time.
Next, the ISO 26000 guidance addresses a set of principles that should be considered when planning, implementing and maintaining a sustainability program. This is very helpful since guiding principles are very important in adapting the program to take advantage of the company culture. Companies that have already implemented sustainability programs can strengthen them using this new standard.
Finally, the ISO 26000 document provides guidance on how to integrate sustainability throughout the organization. This is very important to implement a corporate sustainability program at the facility level and make it part of what every employee does every day.
We will be posting more blogs on this topic. Since this guidance already exists in draft form, there is little need to wait until the final publication to start creating an integrated SMS for your company.
Measuring and driving the sustainability of the information and communication technology (ICT) industry has been a key focus in recent months: Environmental efforts from the industry will not only help reduce waste and energy use from electronics themselves, but can also drive solutions to lower the carbon footprint of the larger society.
In 2009, three of Apple’s suppliers hired a total of 11 underage workers. Three facilities — presumably different facilities — were found to be improperly disposing of their hazardous waste. And at more than half the sites Apple audited in 2009, workweek limits were violated over half the time.
The words environment, health and safety can bring thoughts of “compliance” to one’s mind. The regulatory agencies MassDEP, EPA and OSHA are a reminder to us that compliance requirements are being enforced and must be met to avoid penalties or fines. This was true until companies that you sell your products to (i.e., your customers) began getting serious about something they call “supply chain management.” Supply chain management is when your customers try to manage their risks by becoming regulators themselves.
The biggest company in the world, Wal-Mart, is one of the companies that have been pushing the envelope by “greening” their supply chain. The company has developed a rigid 15-point sustainability index that must be met by more than 61,000 suppliers and all the factories that they use. Failure to meet these environmental and social requirements and maintain or lower the price of your products, could result in termination of your Wal-Mart contract.
CAPACCIO recently became involved in helping a Wal-Mart customer, a leading snack food industry manufacturer, prepare for a Wal-Mart audit. Utilizing Walmart’s 15-point sustainability framework, CAPACCIO helped the client prepare for the audit by assessing the company’s current sustainability state against Wal-Mart’s index.
As part of the 15-point framework, Wal-Mart grades companies on four broad categories: energy and climate; material efficiency; nature and resources; and people and community. CAPACCIO found that the company’s current state was already quite “green.” As a family-owned business, the company opted not to promote their environmental and social successes. Wal-Mart, however, was very happy to hear their stories and learn that the snack food company was exploring a number of opportunities to further improve their operations.
CAPACCIO provided the client with an analysis of how they would be scored based on Wal-Mart’s 15-point sustainability framework at the current time. CAPACCIO also provided a number of specific action items that could be considered to help improve the score. Some recommendations were to prepare water and carbon footprint reports and disclose the results to the Carbon Disclosure Project and the newly formed Water Disclosure Project. CAPACCIO also recommended that the client reach out to its supply chain to learn more about energy and water use in order to complete the disclosures. We also advised the client to consider creating documentation to present the completed sustainability initiatives and post this information on the company web site or include it in a sustainability report.
CAPACCIO helped this client make an internal business case for these sustainability initiatives. By going through this process, the business has prospered, and all of the client’s retail customers, not just Wal-Mart, have reaped the benefits.