Partnerships for the ISO Global Social Responsibility Standard:

Funding Strategies to Ensure Diverse Stakeholder Participation


ECOLOGIA is committed to promoting inclusive stakeholder involvement in standards making as an important aspect of emerging global governance. Because we work on standards development and implementation in the United States, Eastern Europe, Russia, and China, we believe that we have an unusually broad perspective on the issues of stakeholder involvement. We suggest some practical funding solutions for ISO 26000 that can be effective across a broad spectrum of cultural and economic contexts.

Funding Strategies to Increase Stakeholder Involvement

Problem: Over-Reliance on National Standards Bodies; Under-Utilization of Talents of Varied Stakeholder Groups

ISO’s organizational structure depends heavily upon National Standards Bodies (NSBs) for selecting, funding and bringing expert delegates into the international standards making process. However, many NSBs remain unconvinced of the value of stakeholder involvement in their delegations. Many have not formed national mirror committees for ISO SR with representation from all six stakeholder groups. Some of those who have do not share many ISO communications with mirror committee members.

Often the impetus for change comes from civil society bodies such as NGOs. So far, those bodies have been under-utilized in the ISO 26000 creation process. Unless issues of access and funding are addressed promptly and creatively, the contributions of civil society bodies will diminish further, to the long-term detriment of a viable, inclusive ISO 26000 standard.

Solutions: Look beyond National Standards Bodies to tap resources

  1. ISO needs to acknowledge the limits of reliance on the NSBs for funding varied stakeholder involvement in the ISO 26000 process.
  2. ISO needs to work with stakeholders to approach potential donors such as foundations, corporations, and multinational organizations concerned with global governance, to create a fund to promote significantly increased levels of constructive stakeholder involvement so that NSBs will begin to see merit in their funding truly representative delegations. The argument for this fund needs to be predicated on donor organizations’ commitment to civil society development, global governance, and for corporations, an aspect of “social responsibility”. NGOs like ECOLOGIA can assist in making these contacts as we have been working on this issue for two years. For example, ECOLOGIA has submitted a proposal to a US foundation for travel grants for citizens from Russia and Central and Eastern Europe to participate in future ISO 26000 meetings.
  3. Funding for increased stakeholder involvement in the SR standards making process needs to be supported by flexibility concerning delegate participation so as to encourage NSB delegation diversification. D-Liaison organizations with international membership can be enlarged, encouraged and funded to include participants from under-represented regions and countries. For example, ECOLOGIA’s delegation to Lisbon includes a highly informed “observer” from Lithuania. She received the nomination of the Lithuanian NSB (but no funding from the NSB). ECOLOGIA is funding her instead. This delegate’s participation may lead to Lithuania’s eventual formal participation in the SR process.
  4. Develop an online “open source” training curriculum for developing the capacity of stakeholder groups so that they may understand how to approach NSBs and international ISO standards bodies and participate meaningfully in standards making. Stakeholders (NGOs, consumer groups, labour, industry, government, SSROs,) can be trained to work more effectively work with their NSBs, and to demonstrate their capacity to constructively contribute to making and implementating standards. When stakeholders become valued partners, they are more likely to be included and funded as part of NSB delegations. ECOLOGIA has a funding lead for such a training curriculum, but needs ISO and stakeholder support to advance and fund the concept.

Problem: Lack of a consistent funding process to ensure meaningful diverse stakeholder participation

Although ISO has encouraged increasing numbers of D-Liaison civil society organizations to participate directly as stakeholders in creating ISO 26000, the vast majority of D-Liaisons do not have access to the financial resources required for consistent and meaningful participation. A considerable learning curve is needed to become truly effective in standards-writing. Numerous capable individuals who were selected by D-Liaison organizations to attend the 1st Plenary in Salvador Bahia were unable to attend the 2nd Plenary in Bangkok, because of lack of funding. This ‘funding gap’ has been repeatedly documented and acknowledged by ISO, but programs to locate and secure consistent funding have yet to materialize.

The Strategic Framework (for increasing the participation and impact of developing countries and other under-represented stakeholders in international standardization on social responsibility), a consensus-based document produced by TG 1, sets forth a thoughtful and well-documented articulation of prioritized needs, but does not have specific goals or benchmarks.

Solutions: ISO should develop partnerships with D Liaison organizations to leverage sufficient funding

  1. Create a ‘Needs and Opportunities’ briefing paper for use specifically in fundraising – Everyone involved in the creation of ISO 26000 will benefit from a compelling and brief consensus statement on the role of international standards in global governance so that potential donors and users get beyond wondering if standards matter and how the public should be involved. ECOLOGIA produced such a briefing paper in November 2004, for the Ford Foundation. However, that paper remains a single organization’s perspective; it has not generated increased funding for stakeholders in ISO. Many in industry, civil society, and even the corporate community continue to express doubts about the legitimacy and effectiveness of “voluntary standards”. TG 2 has produced materials with public communication goals in mind; however those materials are not sufficiently compelling and targeted to meet the needs of foundation and corporate donors who view the current global standards process with skepticism.
  2. Implement policies and procedures that will support stakeholders’ own fundraising efforts. ISO needs to designate someone with standing inside the ISO bureaucracy as the authority to serve as a reference, and to provide telephone and written support for ISO SR participating stakeholder organizations attempting to raise funds for their colleagues’ participation (travel to regional meetings, NSB meetings, plenaries, etc.). This would not entail an additional monetary burden on the ISO organization, but it would greatly help to legitimate D-Liaisons’ fundraising efforts.
  3. Rescue the SR stakeholder process with short term and immediate ad hoc measures. This task is greater than the resources of the ISO Secretariat, or of TG 1. Each of us has expertise and fundraising contacts which we need to contribute to and coordinate through TG 1. We need to put these capabilities on the table, coordinate them, create temporary oversight mechanisms, and provide official ISO endorsement for multiple funding initiatives. As a US based 501 (c) (3) with an international grant making arm (The Virtual Foundation - ECOLOGIA could spearhead a funding initiative aimed at US foundations. Our European colleagues could approach the European Union, etc. African, Asian and Latin American colleagues could approach not only development banks, but also multinational corporations based in or active in their regions.
  4. Introduce constructive national level stakeholders to multinational corporations who might sponsor such individuals’ and/or organizations’ participation in standards making; include organizational and corporate sponsorship for stakeholder involvement in global governance and NSBs as one aspect of social responsibility. - Multinational corporations often are change agents introducing ISO standards throughout their supply chains. They need local community allies and partners when implementing meaningful public participation and reporting programs. Investing in the capacity of such partners by funding their involvement in NSB level and international level ISO standards making would be a wise investment. A few pilot programs in this area could demonstrate dramatic results.

Long-term Structural Solutions for Funding Stakeholder Participation

Problem: ISO currently lacks policies for ensuring a ‘critical mass’ of diverse stakeholder participation on social policy issues

As ISO standards increasingly impact social policy, ISO is becoming more and more an arm of global governance. More traditional forms of global governance created by nation states or by multi-lateral agreements include some form of representative decision-making body such as a parliamentary assembly or executive council. Participation in these decision-making bodies is rarely dependent upon the participants’ ability to fund their own involvement. However, this is often the situation for many who struggle to participate in the ISO standards making process.

ISO needs to develop a policy and mechanism for funding broad stakeholder participation in those committees making social, as opposed to purely technical, standards. Criteria need to be created for determining which standards cross the “social policy threshold”. An advisory body composed of a broad range of ISO stakeholders should be included in this evaluation process. Once a policy is determined to have broad social implications, the mandate of the committees in charge of the standard should include a requirement to identify the relevant stakeholder communities and create a budget sufficient to involve a minimal threshold of those stakeholders. We are not suggesting that all stakeholders’ participation be funded or that any individual’s involvement be totally funded by ISO. We do, however, believe that it is necessary for ISO to develop and stand behind a strategy of adequate threshold funding.

If ISO is to credibly claim that it meets its own standards of broad stakeholder involvement, no less those of the WTO, it must operationalize and not just proclaim such policies. If ISO is to assume its role as a major global governance organization, it must match its claims of supporting public participation. This is not only required by standards of global governance, it is simply good business. One does not launch a new venture until adequate financing is in place.

Solutions: There are numerous funding options that ISO might explore. For example:

  1. ISO could create a Stakeholder Fund with contributions (or even loans) from international organizations, donor nations, and multinational corporations. The Stakeholder Fund would be available for social policy standards making public involvement. The fund could be replenished (or a loan repaid) by employing the fee mechanisms described below.
  2. Standards users could be charged a fee for use. This fee might be linked to certification fees or to standards document procurement fees. Such a system would not require potential users to pay before they see the standard, but it would prevent free riders from escaping responsibility for the cost of standards development. If companies using ISO 9000 had each been assessed a 10 USD fee, the fund would now be over seven million US dollars.
  3. Interested industries, national governments, and international organizations could be requested to sponsor stakeholder development for individual standards. When the required budget for minimum stakeholder involvement is met, the process could begin.
  4. Participants in standards making could be charged a needs-based “participants’ fee”. Countries and organizations able to pay would thus be providing scholarships to countries and organizations not adequately funded.


Successful efforts to increase funding for stakeholder involvement in the ISO 26000 standards writing process depend upon the ability of the entire ISO community to work with new levels of inventiveness, collaboration and transparency. We hope that this strategy paper documents the potential of stakeholders to contribute both conceptually and financially to solving the stakeholder funding issue.

We approach the May 2006 Lisbon ISO 26000 gathering with the sense that this will be a defining moment in ISO’s history; it will be a gathering at which a community of individuals dedicated to opening a new chapter in global governance finally finds a way to significantly reduce the economic barriers to broad participation in this 21st century phenomenon.