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ISO 26000
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ISO 26000

The Business Guide to the New Standard on Social Responsibility 

Lars Moratis and Timo Cochius
May 2011   206+x pp   234 x 156 mm  
paperback   ISBN 978-1-906093-40-2   £29.95  

Alternative formats: eBook (PDF)

Review copies   Inspection copies
In only a few years’ time, many thousands of organizations around the world are likely to be using ISO 26000 as a foundation for their SR policies. This book is a comprehensive roadmap to the new standard.

“Before investing a large sum in the ISO 26000 standard itself ... a better initial approach for sustainability professionals may be to acquire the Moratis and Cochius book.” Ira Feldman, greentrack strategies

Preview samples   Preface  Chapter 1

Over the last ten years, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has grown from being criticised as a management fad to being endorsed as good business practice by the majority of the world’s leading companies. It has also become ever more complex; and the majority of companies are now in need of clarity and guidance to actively engage with CSR in practice, to develop strategies that reflect the unique context in which each company operates and to embed CSR within their values.

ISO, the International Organisation for Standardisation, began developing an International Standard providing guidelines for social responsibility (SR) in 2005. This long-awaited guidance standard was finally published in November, 2010 as ISO 26000. Developed by stakeholders from industry, government, labour, consumers, non-governmental organisations and others, ISO 26000 will almost certainly become the single most authoritative worldwide standard for SR. In only a few years’ time, many thousands of organisations around the world are likely to be using ISO 26000 as a foundation for their SR policies.

ISO 26000 is voluntary, and includes no specific requirements; therefore it is not a certification standard. Nonetheless, business users in particular are anxious to measure against the new ISO guideline their current efforts at implementing SR issues within their overall business strategy. Furthermore, many organisations have indicated that they may reformulate current strategies or develop new initiatives based on the content of ISO 26000.

This book, written by international experts who have closely followed the development of ISO 26000, is the first to provide potential users with a comprehensive roadmap to the new standard and a compass to identify where they stand in relation to it now.

ISO 26000 defines all of the key terminology of SR, provides advice about the ways in which organisations can identify their social responsibilities and how SR can be integrated not only into companies, but into all types of organisations. It is not another code or norm, but an overarching blueprint for social responsibility.

This book covers all the key content of ISO 26000, examining the development of the standard, the topics covered and how key themes such as stakeholders are dealt with. It is rich in tools and benchmarking exercises, illustrative material, case examples, and help for companies looking to base their CSR policy on ISO 26000. It also contains an overview of the actions and expectations of organisations that wish to work in accordance with ISO 26000.

Timely, detailed and practical, ISO 26000: The Business Guide to the New Standard on Social Responsibility will be an essential resource for the thousands of organisations that need an expert view on how the new standard works, where they stand in relation to it, and how they can work towards developing their CSR efforts in line with its content.


A timely publication, ISO 26000: The Business Guide to the New Standard on Social Responsibility could well become an essential resource material for hundreds of organizations across the world. The 200-plus-page book covers the key contents of ISO 26000. It looks into the development of the standard, the topics covered and how the key themes such as stakeholders are dealt with.

It has tools and benchmarking exercises, illustrative material, case studies and essential material for companies looking to base their CSR policy on ISO 26000. The book also has an overview of the actions and expectations of organizations that wish to work in accordance with ISO 26000.

This is the first book which provides a comprehensive roadmap to the new standard. It defines the terminology of SR and advises companies on the way in which they can identify their social responsibilities and how SR can be integrated into all types of organizations. A truly readable, educative and useful publication.
Suresh Kr Pramar, Managing Trustee, Global Gandhian Trusteeship & Corporate Responsibility Foundation; Executive Director, Centre for Training & Research in Responsible Business (2 August 2011)
Full review


I approached this book – the first guide to the ISO 26000 standard to appear after its publication in late 2010 – with great trepidation. Any book seeking to provide a complete and balanced overview of the new standard on social responsibility (“SR”), given its broad scope of seven core topics and its genesis in a fractious multi-stakeholder process, faces a daunting task. And the authors, Moratis and Cochius, while apparently seasoned CSR consultants, were not players in the international-level ISO/SR process. So, as the leader of one of the ISO/SR stakeholder groups (Service, Support, Research & Others or “SSRO”) and as the co-chair of one of the core topic drafting teams (Environment), I must admit that I was a bit skeptical. Fortunately, my fears were unfounded as I have found the Moratis and Cochius book to be remarkably useful both in terms of summarizing the key aspects of the standard and in identifying some of the more contentious issues.

Before commenting further on the book itself, let’s first cover a few basics about ISO 26000:

  • ISO 26000 is voluntary, and includes no specific requirements; therefore, there is no third party verification and it is not a “certification” standard like ISO 14001.
  • ISO – the International Organization for Standardization – opted to use the “SR” terminology rather than the more common “CSR” or corporate social responsibility theme. By dropping the “C” in CSR, a somewhat controversial decision at the time, ISO hoped to underscore that the standard applies to all organizations not just businesses.
  • ISO 26000 is not a “management systems standard.” ISO 14001 and ISO 9000 are both management systems standards structured around the Deming cycle’s “Plan, Do, Check, Act” framework. Over vigorous objections, ISO 26000 was consciously drafted to NOT be a management system; instead guidance is offered in each of the seven core topics

And, how has the market reacted to these basics as we reach the two-year mark for ISO 26000?

  • Several countries (Austria, Sweden, China, among others, according to trade press reports) are developing versions of ISO 26000 to which organizations will be able to certify.
  • There is no evidence that the “SR” terminology will supplant “CSR” in the scholarly or practitioner lexicon. Clearly, CSR is not a management fad, but is now a considered to be good business practice embraced by the world’s leading companies.
  • The resistance to a management systems structure during the drafting process failed to take into account that the uptake of various aspects of ISO 26000, even on a voluntary basis, would likely occur via incorporation into management systems (such as EMSs, QMSs, etc.) already in place.

Nonetheless, to voice my clear support for ISO 26000 in its present form, it is simply the best available roadmap for organizations to follow in enhancing its commitment to CSR. Sustainability practitioners should be aware that ISO 26000’s “bundle” of core topics (see below) is coextensive with “sustainable business practices” or the “ESG” (environment, social, governance) formulation favored by the financial sector.

Moratis and Cochius state that ISO 26000 “can be a highly useful guide in determining an organization’s social responsibilities and helping it implement a proper SR strategy.” The authors acknowledge that “despite its short history, a number of myths and misunderstandings regarding ISO 26000 have already surfaced.” Among these, there is confusion about the scope of the standard; its application to different types of organizations; and its relationship with other standards.” The authors promise upfront to describe what ISO 26000 is – and is not. Their pragmatic starting point is: “Every organization should interpret CSR in a way that fits its activities, impacts and sphere of influence.”

The meat of the book covers the four main clauses of ISO 26000. Clause 4 deals with SR Principles, the general principles on which ISO 26000 is based, and the starting point for any organization’s SR policy. “A principle,” the authors assert, “can be seen as a cornerstone for decision-making and behavior.” The fundamental principles identified in ISO 26000 are:

  • Accountability
  • Transparency
  • Ethical behavior
  • Respect for stakeholder processes
  • Respect for the rule of law
  • Respect for international norms of behavior
  • Respect for human rights

In the discussion of SR principles, the authors demonstrate that they are not “strict constructionists” in their interpretation of the standard. Indeed, in several places in the book, the authors chide the drafters of the standard for certain oversights. Here, they suggest that a few additional principles – intergenerational, continual improvement, and sustainability impact – should have made the final cut.

Clause 5, which is concerned with stakeholder identification and engagement, gets a full chapter treatment. The authors discuss “stakeholder mapping” approaches and other techniques. They observe , for example, that an analysis of the organization’s value chain and dependency relationships will aid in identifying relevant stakeholders. Moratis and Cochius point out that stakeholder engagement is not an exercise drawn on a blank sheet of paper, since “some stakeholder expectations have been institutionalized within the law, culture or societal norms.”

Clause 6 of the standard addresses in turn the seven core topics, but no book on ISO 26000 can hope to comprehensively deal with all the subjects in ISO 26000. The core topics covered in ISO 26000 are:

  • Organizational governance
  • Human rights
  • Labor practices
  • Environment
  • Fair operating practices
  • Consumer issues
  • Community involvement and development

The authors correctly observe that each of these subjects warrant – and already have – separate books dedicated to the task. Instead, in this relatively short (186 pages) guidebook, the authors provide a nice mix of background material, real-life examples, reflections, practical tools and “experiential implementation tips” that can be used in practice by different organizations. Under each core topic, the standard lays out several “issues” that organizations may need to address, if deemed relevant. Most helpfully in this chapter, the authors provide numerous boxes to illustrate each issue with a real world example.

Finally, Clause 7 of ISO 26000 explores the integration of SR throughout the organization. In part, this raises the question of how organizations should select SR priorities. In this chapter, the authors nicely handle important considerations such as “proportionality” and “sphere of influence.” Beyond that, the authors posit the “deep integration” of SR into the organization. Moratis and Cochius have their own take on “CSR 2.0” or the next round in the evolution of CSR. “SR is not only integrated in systems, structures and procedures,” say the authors, but “also wide support within the organization and its organizational culture.”

Overall, Moratis and Cochius have presented us with a clear and concise guidebook to ISO 26000. Companies and organizations new to CSR activities will certainly find the book useful as a basic reference guide. Organizations with existing CSR initiatives will also benefit from this volume, since, as the authors suggest, ISO 26000 will likely be applied to increase the credibility of specific CSR claims. Before investing a large sum in the ISO 26000 standard itself (for example, it is available for $223 from ANSI, the national standards body in the US), a better initial approach for sustainability professionals may be to acquire the Moratis and Cochius book.
Ira Feldman, President & Senior Counsel, greentrack strategies


Lars Moratis and Timo Cochius bring their experience and knowledge to provide the reader with insights into the fundamentals, structure and practical application of the new SR guideline ISO 26000. It’s a timely and useful book that has been well received in the Netherlands and makes an easy read. I recommend that companies and organisations from other countries benefit from this book as well – albeit as a basic SR reference guide or as an assistance for their SR implementation challenges. A must-read for all entrepreneurs with serious SR ambitions.
Willem Lageweg, Director, MVO Nederland (Dutch CSR knowledge centre)

A need-to-read that is accessibly written, both for beginners and accomplished sustainability professionals. The book provides insight into ISO 26000, is well structured and provides clear examples and illustrations.
Monique Jansen, Sustainability Advisor, Ricoh

This book helps you find your way effectively in this world called social responsibility. Clear, concise and well illustrated with nice-to-knows. A guidebook for applying SR principles within a company.
Robert van Houten, Director, Newasco van Houten


1 Introduction

2 What is social responsibility (according to ISO 26000)?

Interlude I: SR in practice: motivations, manifestations and results

3 ISO 26000: background, characteristics and structure

Interlude II: Myths and misunderstandings about ISO 26000: Part 1

4 SR principles

Interlude III: Myths and misunderstandings about ISO 26000: Part 2

5 Stakeholder identification and engagement

Interlude IV: Frequently asked questions about ISO 26000

6 SR core subjects and issues

Interlude V: The materiality of ISO 26000 for SMEs

7 Selecting SR priorities

8 SR implementation

9 Epilogue: final thoughts on (the future of) ISO 26000

Annex 1: ISO 26000 Quick Scan
Annex 2: An exercise to identify stakeholders’ interests and expectations
Annex 3: The SR performance form
Annex 4: Millennium Development Goals
Annex 5: The Global Compact
About the authors

Lars Moratis is the former director of a specialised CSR consultancy in the Netherlands. He has extensive experience in consulting with companies, governments and NGOs on CSR strategy development and implementation. Currently, he is affiliated with MVO Nederland, the Dutch CSR knowledge centre and is a lecturer/coordinator in a postgraduate CSR programme at the Open University in the Netherlands. He has published three books, including the primary Dutch study book on CSR, and various articles on CSR, ISO 26000 and the interface between CSR and management education.
Timo Cochius is a CSR consultant with BECO, an internationally operating consultancy in sustainable development based in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. He has an academic background in international business administration and is an expert on CSR strategy development, implementation and sustainability reporting. He has extensive experience with consulting with companies, governments and NGOs on different aspects of CSR and ISO 26000 and has published several articles on ISO 26000.