Sustainability can be defined as the state of the global system, in which the needs of the present are met without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. A sustainable future requires balancing the needs of environmental, social and economic systems. ISO standards can be instrumental in contributing to a more sustainable world and should, therefore, be championed by all responsible businesses and industries.
The ISO General Assembly of 2018 identified sustainability as an essential focus, and the website launched a series highlighting how around 600 ISO standards relate to the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations (UN). The International Organisation for Standardization (ISO) has allied itself with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development of the UN. This plan was created with the aim of transforming our world.
Modern consumers, governments, manufacturers and companies have come to recognise the impacts of their actions and the importance of sustainability. ISO standards enable businesses to measure the costs and effects of their activities, allowing them to be quantified and measured in the decision-making process. This ultimately leads to a more responsive and responsible business, enabling closer adherence to the principles that promote sustainability.
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ISO Standards support the three pillars of sustainable development, namely; economic, social and environmental. ISO Standards enable businesses to plan their future growth around consumer expectations and meeting those expectations. ISO standards promote and allow transparency and best practices for limiting and diminishing the impacts of their activities, and can benefit governments, industries and consumers.
There are a number of standards that are linked to sustainability and sustainable business development, including ISO 14001, ISO 26000, ISO 20400 and ISO 37001. Here is a brief overview of these standards and their role in promoting sustainability and the UN’s SDGs.
ISO 14001: Environmental Management Systems
ISO 14001 establishes frameworks and guidance to mitigate and adapt to climate change. This standard contributes to the promotion and support of SDG 13.
ISO 26000: Guidance on Social Responsibility
This standard provides guidance on how businesses and organisations can operate in a way that is ethical and transparent, and which contributes to sustainable development. This important standard has over 450 recommendations that directly impact the Sustainable development goals.
ISO 20400: Sustainable Procurement
The ISO 20400 standard encourages SDG 12. The standard, ISO 20400 Sustainable Procurement- Guidance assists organisations in implementing sustainability into their procurement function.
ISO 37001: Anti-bribery Management System
This standard promotes peace, justice and strong institutions by increasing transparency and accountability. This promotes SDG 16.
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