Social responsibility and sustainable development have grown into key concerns for almost all organizations worldwide in response to the intricate systems that comprise and influence our society. While engaging in socially responsible behavior, organizations must consider their stakeholders. The network of stakeholders, for organizations that provide products and services to consumers, includes customers. While the supply chain can almost give the impression that companies owe little obligation to the consumer after completing a sale, in truth, organizations have responsibilities to their customers.
What is ISO 26000?
The international standard ISO 26000:2010 – Guidance on social responsibility gives organizations of any size the means to implement sustainability throughout their activities in a manner that remains evident throughout their sphere of influence. Its guidance touches upon a wide range of subjects, almost all of which bear some relevance to the seven core subjects for guidance on social responsibility:
- Organizational governance
- Human rights
- Labor practices
- The environment
- Fair operating practices
- Consumer issues
- Community involvement and development
Consumer Issues in ISO 26000:2010
Section 6.7 of ISO 26000:2010 – Guidance on social responsibility is titled “Consumer issues”, and its content is steadfast in detailing and elaborating on guidance and expected practices for organizations in relation to the sixth core subject of social responsibility. The term consumer includes not only those who pay for the organization’s products and services, but also those who make use of the output of the organization’s decisions and activities.
In the realm of consumer protection, the United Nations Guidelines on Consumer Protection is one of the most important sets of principles. Adopted in 1985, expanded to include sustainable consumption in 1999, and revised once more in 2015, this document calls upon member States to protect consumers from hazards, promote consumers’ economic interests, and educate and enable them to make informed choices. These guidelines and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights express many socially responsible practices that are relevant to consumer issues in ISO 26000:2010 – Guidance on social responsibility.
Although the state bears the primary responsibility for ensuring that the right to satisfaction of basic needs is respected, an organization can do its best to fulfill this need. Some consumer issues are controlled and regulated by the government, but decisions undertaken by organizations can help to adhere to and propagate these rules. For example, organizations can help to grant the consumer’s right of access to non-hazardous products and right to privacy by assuring that their products or services will respect any customer’s privacy and not wage negative impacts on any customer’s safety.
Responsibility with other consumer issues on the part of the organization is closely associated with transparency. Whether it involves providing education and accurate information, using fair and helpful marketing information, or designing products that provide access to all (whenever possible), providing the consumer with a transparent and healthy environment is integral to considering and completing expected actions for their issues.
Consumer issues are elaborated on extensively in Section 6.7 of the ISO 26000:2010 – Guidance on Social Responsibility document. This information is taken only from one section, discussing a single core subject. The standard addresses many more issues, which can be useful for the different organizations throughout the world that wish to contribute to sustainable development. We have touched upon other concepts present within this standard in the past, including:
Social Responsibility and Small and Medium-Sized Organizations
Environmental Sustainability Through the Scope of Social Responsibility
ISO 26000:2010 – Guidance on Social Responsibility is available on the ANSI Webstore.