Nov 1, 2010
In a historic move, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) has included animal welfare in its one of its newly-published standards, ISO 26000. The new standard on social responsibility encourages a large number of entities – public, private or third sector – to acknowledge the importance of the wellbeing of animals whilst attempting to attain the ISO standard.
“Undoubtedly, this is a landmark, because it states unequivocally that animal welfare matters to all,” said Dirk-Jan Verdonk, international programs manager at WSPA. “Our actions impact animals in countless ways and, accordingly, we have a responsibility to ensure that their welfare is respected – be it as a company, school, municipality, church, university, ministry or in any other form we organize ourselves.”
The standard, although voluntary, is significant because it details what organizations need to do to operate in a socially responsible manner, stipulating that the welfare of animals used economically, or in any other way, must be taken into consideration. Most notably, the text of ISO 26000 states that organizations should aim to: “respect the welfare of animals, when affecting their lives and existence, including by providing decent conditions for keeping, breeding, producing, transporting and using animals.”
The inclusion of animal welfare in these standards is a result of WSPA and Dutch consumers association, Goede Waar & Co, participating in the ISO 26000 working group. The group, formed after discussions on ISO 26000 began in 2005, was the largest in the Swiss-based organization’s history, involving approximately 400 experts from 99 countries.
“The ISO Working Group agreed that it made sense to include animal welfare as an element of social responsibility,” says ISO Deputy Secretary-General Kevin McKinley. “Bringing together so many experts from different stakeholder interests to debate this new standard has helped to ensure that the final consensus represents a depth and breadth of input on social responsibility, as a whole.”
“Prior to now, animal welfare was not part of the ISO benchmark, so organizations could claim to be ‘socially responsible,’ yet still overlook the interests of the animals affected by their business practices,” added WSPA’s Verdonk. “We hope that other organizations responsible for issuing guidelines or standards – such as the International Finance Corporation and Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development – will now follow the ISO’s example, giving animal welfare its rightful place as a critical aspect of social responsibility.”