Following five years of development and negotiation, the International Standardization Organisation (ISO) is putting the final touches to a new international guideline on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).

The ISO 26000 will not be a certifiable standard, but a supporting guideline with advice on how organisations can link CSR aspects to existing management systems and other systems in the organisation. Nevertheless, it is expected that many organisations and businesses will implement the voluntary guideline. It is even possible that major audit companies will create certifiable systems which are based on the ISO 26000 guideline. It is therefore also highly likely that the ISO 26000 guideline will have a great deal of influence on the future of CSR, particularly in developing countries.

The ISO guideline is being developed by a working group of 435 experts from more than 90 countries. Various stakeholders are represented in the working group: entrepreneurs, government bodies, trade unions, NGOs, consumers and consultants. Not all stakeholders are evenly represented. For example, there are 35 trade union representatives compared to 95 experts from the business community. An exceptional aspect is that the working group is largely made up of delegates from developing countries.

The final plenary meeting of the working group was in Quebec in May 2009. Researcher Bart Slob of SOMO also took part in this. The objective of the meeting was to discuss the final draft version of the guideline, and to reach agreement on a number of troublesome points. For example, the working group has now reached agreement on the integration of animal welfare in the guideline, and a clear description has been drawn up of vulnerable groups in society.

The final draft version of the guideline will be issued in September 2009. This draft will be presented to the 159 countries which are members of the ISO for comments and voting. If more than two-thirds of these countries vote for publication of the document, the ISO 26000 guideline will be published worldwide in September 2010.

SOMO set up a discussion group about ISO 26000 in early 2009 on LinkedIn. Everyone with a profile on LinkedIn can join. There are already more than 380 members.