Project Management resource base/SA8000 vs ISO26000

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Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) or Social Accountability: There are many ways to to express Social Compliance. This article discuss the two standards in this field: ISO 26000 and SA8000 that covers almost the same scope. What standard is best for my use?

SA8000:2008 Social Accountability

The SA8000® are based on:

  • National law (of the company).
  • International human rights and
  • the convention of the ILO.

The two main documents are:

  • SA8000®:2008 Standard (free but protected by copyright) and
  • SA8000 Guidance (available for a small fee).

The standard is issued by Social Accountability International(

SA8000®:2008 is a standard defining requirements to companies. It is possible to be certified against the standard. The standard is translated to English, Spanish and 8 other languages (as of Nov 2010).

The standard is in 10 pages only.

Headlines of the standard

  • Purpose and scope.
  • Normative elements and their interaction.
  • Definitions.
  • Social accountability requirements.

ISO26000:2010 Guidance on social responsibility

The guidance standard was published in October 2010 as ISO 26000 and be voluntary to use. It do not include requirements and it is therefore, not possible to be certified against the standard. The ISO26000 makes reference to The ISO14000 and ISO9000 series of standards. Even though, ISO group the standard as a management and leadership standard, there are not link to the important management aspects such as e.g. Management review, Continual improvements, Corrective and Preventive actions.

The standard is translated to English, Spanish and French (as of March 2011).

The standard is more than 80 pages.

Headlines of the standard

  • Foreword
  • Introduction
  • Scope
  • Terms and definitions
  • Understanding social responsibility
  • Principles of social responsibility
  • Recognizing social responsibility and engaging stakeholders
  • Guidance on social responsibility core subjects
  • Guidance on integrating social responsibility throughout an organization
  • Annex A – Examples of voluntary initiatives and tools for social responsibility
  • Annex B – Abbreviated terms
  • Bibliography

Other relevant standards

There is a number of other standards that partly or fully covers CSR and Social Accountability. I have listed the most relevant below. Please contact Virtual Team if you need further insight to these standards.

  • The AA1000 Series of Standards ( Is a framework Principles Standard (AA1000APS). also provides a Assurance Standard (AA1000AS) that provides a methodology for assurance practitioners for evaluation of the nature and extent to which an organisation adheres to the AccountAbility Principles. Furthermore, the standard includes a Stakeholder Engagement Standard (AA1000SES) providing a framework to help organisations ensure stakeholder engagement processes.
  • GRI - Global Reporting Initiative
  • BSCI - Business Social Compliance Initiative (Recommend / Suggest to use SA8000)
  • Sedex - a not for profit membership organisation working for improvements in ethical and responsible business practices in global supply chains.
  • "Code-of-Conduct"


ISO 26000 and SA8000 covers almost the same scope. However, the purpose of the standards are different: The ISO standard is a guidance standard, whereas, the SA8000 may be used as a management standard: SA8000 may be implemented in a company and be certified against.

ISO 26000 standard is a nice source of information on Social Responsibility and it provides a lot of information (more than 80 pages) on how to implement Social Responsibility as an integrated part of any Business. ISO 26000 is a must for larger companies. Smaller and mid-sized companies should use ISO 26000 as a source of information.

Were as SA8000 is much more operational and easy to implement in to a ISO 9000 Quality management system. SA8000 is relevant also for smaller companies that would like to prove compliance to social responsibility. SA8000 is also relevant for companies that would like to be aligned with generally accepted requirements, but don't need certification. SA8000:2008 is much easier to approach as it is only a document of 10 pages.


Should you have comments to this article or do you need further information, then do not hesitate to contact the author at: Virtual team A/S (in English) (in Danish) provides, consultancy on quality management and social responsibility, among others, for the IT-industry.