The fit of the social responsibility standard ISO 26000 within other CSR instruments: Redundant or complementary?

Anna Zinenko, Mª Rosa Rovira Val, Ivan Montiel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)


© 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited. Purpose – The aim of this paper is to discuss how ISO 26000 fits within two predominant corporate social responsibility (CSR) instruments, GRI and UNGC. The past two decades have witnessed considerable changes in the CSR field with the introduction of new voluntary CSR instruments. Organizations adopting such tools may perceive some of the existing and emerging CSR instruments as redundant or complementary. Design/methodology/approach – The relationships between the CSR instruments analysed are treated through the lenses of institutional entrepreneurship and coopetition theories. The analysis presented is based on secondary data such as literature reviews, publications and online resources and databases from the UNGC, GRI and ISO as well as personal communications with representatives of ISO, GRI and UNGC. Findings – The paper shows that from the users’ perspective, CSR instruments should not be treated as separate alternatives, but rather as complementary to each other. At the same time, organizations that set up CSR instruments have to strengthen their existing collaboration as a network, in order to contribute more effectively to sustainable development. Research limitations/implications – The use of secondary data to discuss some of the ISO 26000 diffusion trends might provide an incomplete picture but still offer interesting insights. Practical implications – This study allows to better understand the linkages, overlaps and differences between three CSR instruments: UNGC, GRI and ISO 26000. At first sight, some of these instruments may appear as redundant but our analysis point out that they complement each other. They have different goals and are useful in different parts of one organization’s CSR infrastructure. These instruments help organizations to implement different CSR tools at different stages of integrating sustainability issues into their strategies and operations. Originality/value – CSR instruments have mainly been examined separately by scholars. In contrast, this study analyses ISO 26000, UNGC and GRI as a collaborative mechanism and predicts the fit of ISO 26000 within these well-established CSR instruments. The main contribution of this study is an in-depth analysis of the relationships between organizations that are developing and promoting prominent CSR instruments. In addition, we apply organizational theories to our analysis as a novel perspective. This study contributes to institutional entrepreneurship theory by showing how organizations playing the role of institutional entrepreneurs may encourage the early adoption of a new CSR instrument. It also contributes to the coopetition theory by applying this approach outside the traditional business setting.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)498-526
JournalSustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2015


  • CSR
  • Coopetition
  • GRI
  • ISO 26000
  • Institutional entrepreneurship
  • UNGC


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