Standardizing social responsibility via ISO 26000: Empirical insights from the forest industry

Document Type


Publication Date



This paper focuses on the emerging trend to increase the credibility and legitimacy of corporate contributions to sustainable development through the adoption of the ISO 26000 guidance standard for social responsibility. Empirical insights are gained from a two-stage exploratory study combining an online managerial survey and personal interviews in large-scale forest industry companies. Based on the results, the majority of these companies have already adopted social responsibility practices that are covered by the seven core subjects of ISO 26000. Our results also reveal that forest industry companies are strongly focused on environmental issues and organizational governance as key priorities for implementing the CSR, while for example consumer issues and human rights receive very little attention. Furthermore, while the legitimacy of ISO 26000 as a global sustainability standard was not criticized, based on our results it can be argued that this standard may not bring much added value to sustainability frontrunners with existing social responsibility related processes, nor is it sufficiently detailed to incorporate forest-sector-specific issues. This is in line with conceptual literature questioning the ability of sustainability standards to drive progress towards sustainable development at the national or global scale.

Publisher's Statement

© 2015 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd and ERP Environment. Publisher’s version of record: http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/sd.1579

Publication Title

Sustainable Development