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7.7.2021 Article

Standards – tools of social responsibility

In order to be successful, companies and public organisations have to consider their impact on the people and world around us. Narrow-minded profit-seeking does not go far when stakeholders demand responsibility.

The UN 2030 Agenda is important for all of us.

The United Nations has taken the initiative to protect the planet with its 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Together, the UN member countries are committed to taking action for a safe and just world.

Achieving these goals is not the sole responsibility of governments. Everyone must participate – governments, companies, communities and private individuals alike.
Each action improves the well-being of us all.

Set in the 2030 Agenda, action is guided by 17 interrelated Sustainable Development Goals. The goals are rather demanding, and they include e.g. eradication of poverty, sustainable economic growth beneficial to everyone, responsible consumption and production, and climate action. Standards help to achieve these goals.

Practical help with sustainable development

Compiled by international working groups, standards include best practices, guidelines and checklists that help reduce negative environmental impacts. In regard to social responsibility, some of the more important things that standards can help you achieve include transparency of operations and manufacturing, fulfilling the expectations of consumers and stakeholders. Standards help establish indicators for social responsibility, making it easier to monitor operations and to report and communicate results.

Management standards, for example, are an excellent way of bringing social responsibility to decision-making. Standards not only improve management in many ways but also make the planning of operations more systematic. The standard ISO 45001 ‘Occupational health and safety management systems’, for example, encourages the organisation’s management to commit to improving of health and safety at work while also encouraging employees to actively take care of their own health and safety.

There are many standards on energy efficiency and renewable energy sources. Standards help manage various aspects of energy consumption, such as interoperability of systems and equipment, and further, in the development of energy management systems to support management. See e.g. ISO 50001 ‘Energy management’ or ISO 52000 ‘Energy performance of buildings’.

Urbanisation has made the safety and comfort of citizens as well as sustainable urban design more important than ever before. Utilised in sustainable urban design and intelligent cities, there are hundreds of standards in which sustainable use of resources, environmental protection and citizen well-being is brought up. Standards on e.g. intelligent traffic systems, water supply, sewage management or emergency preparedness may offer further assistance.

Standards meet the goals set by the UN

ISO has categorised its most popular standards in accordance with the UN principles of sustainable development. For example, ISO 14001 on environmental management covers 14 out of the 17 goals defined by the UN, while ISO 31000 on risk management covers seven of the goals. Links between ISO standards and UN goals of sustainable development can be found at