Animal welfare included in new Standards for Social Responsibility

WSPA is celebrating the inclusion of animal welfare in the newly launched ISO Standard 26000 as a historic first.

The International Organization for Standardization’s (ISO) new guidelines, the ISO 26000, are internationally accepted standards on social responsibility for all organisations, public, private or third sector. The inclusion of animal welfare in these standards will encourage a large number of entities to acknowledge the importance of  the wellbeing of animals whilst attempting to attain the ISO standard.

Dirk-Jan Verdonk, programmes manager at WSPA Netherlands says: "Undoubtedly, this is a landmark, because it states unequivocally that animal welfare matters to all. Our actions impact animals in countless ways and accordingly, we have a responsibility to ensure their welfare is respected, be it as a company, school, municipality, church, university, ministry or in any other form we organise ourselves."

Voluntary but valuable

© WSPA

Although ISO standards are voluntary, they are highly sought after as a certification standard. These standards stipulate what organisations need to do in order to state that they operate in a socially responsible manner – organisations that carry the ISO 26000 certification will be recognisable as having incorporated animal welfare in everything they do.

Specifically, the newly published text requires "respecting the welfare of animals, when affecting their lives and existence, including by providing decent conditions for keeping, breeding, producing, transporting and using animals" as the new text states.

The standards also make specific mention of the physical and psychological wellbeing of animals in several chapters, not just those sections relating to the environment. Animal welfare has been integrated into actions governing ethical behaviour, consumer issues and community involvement as well as development, specifically in wealth and income creation.

WSPA part of the working group

© WSPA

WSPA, together with Dutch consumers association, Goede Waar & Co, were included in the working group discussing the development of ISO 26000. The discussions on ISO 26000 began in 2005, and the working group formed by ISO was the largest in the Swiss-based organisation’s history. Nearly 400 experts from 99 countries were involved in discussing the new standards and although the initial focus was on corporate responsibility, it was decided to open the standard up to include all types of organisations, including government-owned businesses and non-governmental organisations.

"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. 
"The specific issue of animal welfare is a relatively new subject in ISO Standards.  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."

"So far, because animal welfare was not part of the ISO benchmark, organisations could claim to take their social responsibility seriously, despite overlooking the interests of the animals affected by their business practices. We hope that other organisations responsible for issuing guidelines or standards – such as the IFC or OECD – will follow the ISO example, giving animal welfare its rightful place as a critical aspect of social responsibility."

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