Ethical Performance
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Compact heals rift with ISO

September 2009

A disagreement between the United Nations and the body drawing up the new ISO standard on social responsibility has been patched up after diplomatic maneouvering.

The spat arose when the UN Global Compact’s executive director, Georg Kell, wrote a terse letter to the International Organization for Standardization complaining that its draft version of the ISO26000 standard had confined mention of the Compact to an annex – and arguing that it would therefore be better not to mention it at all (EP11, issue 3, p1).

ISO secretary general Rob Steele wrote back to say he would take note of the request but viewed it as ‘unfortunate’.

However, Kell has now pulled back from further confrontation by deciding to publicly release another exchange of letters between the two in which he aims to ‘clarify misconceptions’ resulting from the request. Kell says his original letter ‘has repeatedly been misconstrued as a general disapproval of ISO 26000, and we wanted to emphasize that this is simply not the case’.

In a reply Steel expresses his organization’s ‘appreciation for the Compact’s support and contribution to the development of ISO 26000’.

However, it is unclear whether the Compact’s request has now been withdrawn or whether it still wants all mention of the Compact to be expunged.  A Compact Office spokesperson told EP: ‘While we are not pleased with the placement of the Global Compact reference in the annex of the draft standard, we have raised our concerns with ISO, [and] the exchange that followed Georg Kell’s initial letter clearly illustrates that we remain fully supportive of the ongoing ISO 26000 process.’

ISO and the Global Compact signed a memorandum of understanding in November 2006 that committed them to ‘encourage co-operation and mutual support’.

Global Compact Critics, an informal network of organizations and individuals with concerns about the Compact, said the confrontation had probably evolved because the UN had expected the Compact ‘to feature as a main character in the ISO 26000 standard’ but it had only been given a walk-on part.

Global | Codes of conduct

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