ISO Standards for Sustainable Development

Sustainable development means meeting the needs of the organization and its stakeholders, while also protecting, sustaining and improving the economic, social and environmental resources needed for the future.

Actions for sustainable development have already proven to increase tangible gains, ranging from the benefits of reduced air pollution, higher energy usage efficiency and cost savings, higher yields in agriculture and greater employment opportunities.

For businesses, the key to sustainable development is to integrate the delivery of economic development, social progress and environmental integrity. In other words, profit (economic), people (social) and the planet (environmental) are considered to be the triple bottom line for sustainable development. This requires the balanced development towards the following three interconnected objectives:

a)    Environmental integrity: preventing pollution and optimising resource efficiency in operations, developing products and services with minimal environmental impacts.

b)    Social responsibility: meeting the wider concerns and needs of stakeholders (customers, employees, suppliers and communities) over issues such as product responsibility, working conditions, human rights and community involvement.

c)    Financial performance: creating profits to shareholders and securing long-term value for relevant stakeholders.

In order to be sustainable, organizations need to have a responsible (integrated) management system designed to align quality, health and safety, social responsibility and environmental integrity with the overall management and governance system for value creation,

Achieving a balance between the environmental, social and economic subsystems within the global system is considered to be essential in order to meet current needs without having to compromise the ability of the future generations to meet their needs (ISO 14001: 2015).

ISO 9001: 2015 was intentionally developed to have a common system structure for the easier integration of other ISO standards. In the introduction session before the clauses, it addresses the strategic intent to “improve its overall performance and forms an integral component of sustainable development initiatives”.

The ISO 14001: 2015 provides the specific standard requirements to implement the environmental management system, which can be integrated with ISO 9001: 2015 under the common system structure.

The ISO 26000 is the guidance standard for social responsibility. However, this guidance standard does not provide the specifications to implement the management system for social responsibility.

Organizations cannot afford to wait for years in context of implementing the responsible integrated management system, due to the lack of relevant ISO standards as an excuse.

The ESG Management Standard developed by Social Enterprise Research Academy is the normative standard for implementing the responsible integrated management system. Quality practitioners will be able to easily embrace sustainable development initiatives based on the common system structure of ISO 9001: 2015.