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Economia Aziendale Online 2000 Web (2010) 1: 119-137 DOI:

Pietro Previtali
University of Pavia, Via San Felice 7, Pavia, Italy
Economia Aziendale Online 2000 Web 3 (2010) - 311 -321

Anticipatory Strategies for Introducing ISO 26000 in 2010:

A Comparison between the Italian and Swiss Systems
of Public Administration

Alfredo Ferrante, Alberto Gandolfi and Marco Meneguzzo

This paper analyses the diverse pathways taken by two case study countries in preparing for the implementation
of ISO 26000. It particularly focuses on analysing public policy. The paper finds that in both countries a top-
down approach has been taken. However, also prevalent has been negotiation and the engagement of stake-

Keywords: ISO 26000, social reporting.

1 – Introduction: ISO 26000, a new (com- velop a new International Standard Providing Guide-
plex) standard in the making lines for Social Responsibility (SR). The objective
was to produce a guidance document, and not a speci-
fication document intended for third party certifica-
The implementation of the ISO 26000 standard at the
tion (ISO, 2008).
international level, which is planned for 2010, is the
The standard is still a work in progress; the new
final stage of a process that the International Organi-
date for publication is the year 2010, after being post-
zation for Standardization initiated in year 2005, with
poned for one year from the due date originally set
the aim of developing new International Standard
(yet another indirect indicator of the complexity of
Providing Guidelines for Social Responsibility.
this project). ISO 26000 is intended to complement
Based on the experiences of two European coun-
existing inter-governmental agreements regarding so-
tries, namely Italy and Switzerland, the objective of
cial responsibility, such as the United Nations Univer-
this paper is to analyse the diverse pathways that the
sal Declaration of Human Rights, and those adopted
two Public Administrations have undertaken to equip
by the International Labour Organization (ILO). The
themselves for a better response to the challenge of
standard could be useful to organizations both in the
the ISO 26000, the challenge that affects private
private and the public sectors. In order to guarantee a
companies, financial institutions and non-profit or-
balanced representation of all stakeholders involved,
ganizations alike.
the Working Group is comprised of members coming
Before introducing the theoretical framework
from the following six designated categories: indus-
and the research methods employed in the compari-
try, government, labour, consumers, non-
son of the two countries, it is useful to briefly men-
governmental organizations and “other stakeholders”.
tion the main characteristics of the new international
This is the first time that the ISO has launched such a
demanding and joint development process, which is a
In January 2005, after a long and complex in-
good indicator of the scope and complexity of the is-
quiry process involving a great number of stake-
sues addressed by the new standard.
holders, the Geneva-based International Organization
The Standard ISO 26000 should primarily assist
for Standardization (ISO) decided to establish a
organizations in addressing their social responsibili-
Working Group, known as ISO/TMB WG SR, to de-
Alfredo Ferrante
Ministry of Labour and Social Policies, Italian Government – IT

Alberto Gandolfi – Dipartimento Scienze Aziendali e sociali, SUPSI – Palazzo E, 6928 Lugano-Manno, CH

Marco Meneguzzo – University of Roma Tor Vergata – IT; Università della Svizzera Italiana – CH
312 Ferrante A., Gandolfi A., Meneguzzo M. / Economia Aziendale Online 2000 Web 3 (2010) 311 - 321

ties while respecting cultural, societal, environmental Switzerland (Suisse romande and deutsche Schweiz),
and legal differences and conditions of economic de- which is seldom addressed in the international litera-
velopment; providing practical guidance regarding ture on NPM (German Swiss and Sant Gallen Univer-
the operationalization of social responsibility, identi- sity centre).
fying and involving stakeholders, and enhancing reli- Planning and control systems, accounting sys-
ability of reports about social responsibility; increas- tems, quality management systems etc. ranked high in
ing confidence and satisfaction of customers and the modernisation of the Swiss public administration
other stakeholders in dealing with organizations; and (PA), while in Italy the process of modernisation was
complying with existing international treaties, con- based on the introduction of new laws and on relevant
ventions and ISO standards, e.g. ISO 9001 for quality differences between the regions. Accordingly, the fo-
management or ISO 14001 for environmental man- cal point in Italy has been on accounting systems, the
agement (ISO, 2008). In December 2008, the Work- change of organizational structures, e-government and
ing Group published a Committee Draft (CD). the reform of the public employment system. The
During the first half of 2009, after voting on the principles of quality improvement were introduced no
CD, a decision to move to the Draft International sooner than the mid 1990’s in Italy, especially at the
Standard (DIS) was made: comments given by stake- local government level and in the national healthcare
holders during the 7th WG meeting in Quebec (18-22 system.
May) have been thoroughly examined and the final The assessment of the different pathways of PA
resolution of the WG in plenary session approved the modernization in this two-country case study is con-
go-ahead for drafting a DIS for further circulation. firmed by the North-South comparison of public man-
Finally, during the last WG Meeting in Copenhagen agement reforms, coordinated by Erasmus University
(May 15-21, 2010), it was agreed to move forward (Kickert, 2007). Decentralization, human resource
and to adopt the Final Draft International Standard management and government-citizen relationships
(FDIS) for the final vote. represent areas of medium to high consideration in
Italy; while in Switzerland, at the same time, the cen-
2 – Cross countries comparison: theoreti- trality of control, performance measurement and qual-
ity systems have been established.
cal framework and research methods
In order to understand how the two countries are
preparing to implement the ISO 26000, a descriptive
The administrative systems of the two selected coun-
research method has been adopted (Thietart, 2001) to
tries are very different in terms of the variables usu-
analyse the two national experiences.
ally taken as reference points for the international
In this paper, the public management approach is
comparison of public administration reform and pub-
integrated with a policy analysis approach based on
lic management (Pollitt and Bouckaert, 2000; Kick-
the content analysis of public policies (at the central
ert, 2007).
level in Italy and at the federal level in Switzerland)
The difference is evident in the administrative
focusing on improving the readiness of the adminis-
structures (federal system in the Swiss case; regional
trative systems to address the challenge of ISO 26000.
system shifting towards a federal model in the case of
The analysis of public policies has been an inevi-
Italy), the financial mechanisms (fiscal federalism in
table methodological choice as only after 2010 it will
Switzerland), administrative culture and the nature of
be possible to limit research methods on the topic to
government-citizens relations. It is also worth men-
the case study method (Yin, 1984) or to other qualita-
tioning the high relevance of referenda in Switzerland
tive methods such as the benchmarking of Swiss and
(cantonal and municipal) regarding the introduction
Italian public administrations that are adopting the
of New Public Management (NPM), or in Italy in re-
ISO 26000.
gards to the introduction of systems of participative
Nevertheless, the authors consider be useful to
planning and budgeting (Fedele, Meneguzzo,
undertake a benchmarking analysis of the local gov-
Plamper, and Senese, 2005).
ernments, schools, hospitals and healthcare organiza-
The relations between the political system and
tions in Switzerland and Italy that have adopted
the government and between political decision mak-
ISO9000 or ISO14000, or that have introduced the
ers and top public managers are not quite homogene-
EFQM / CAF model. This could provide an interest-
ous (militia in Switzerland and the introduction of the
ing insight into the future success or failure of ISO
‘spoils’ system in central and regional administrations
in Italy).
The comparison of the public policies in the two
Nonetheless, it should be pointed out that differ-
countries has been carried out using different methods
ent systems of public administration co-exist in Italy
that, in our view, could enrich the paper. In Italy, the
as well as in Switzerland: dualism in terms of per-
policy analysis is mainly based on direct observation
formance and innovation capacity in Italy (Mene-
as one of the authors is the coordinator of the CSR
guzzo, 2007) and different administrative cultures in
Ferrante A., Gandolfi A., Meneguzzo M. / Economia Aziendale Online 2000 Web 3 (2010) 311 - 321 313

and ISO 26000 unit at the Ministry of Labour and So- The case study analysis allows for identification
cial Policies. of some key issues yet to be addressed by the future
Interviews have been conducted with several key strategies introducing ISO 26000; in particular, the
players, representing the main institutional and pro- relation between guidelines (national and/or federal)
fessional networks on CSR and quality improvement and the implementation by each public administration
(refer to Fondaca § 4), as well as interviews with (top-down approach), the role of the pilot experiences
some pilot local governments that have already intro- (bottom-up approach), the creation of knowledge cen-
duced sustainability reports. tres, and the relation with the quality improvement
In the Swiss case, the analysis was based on the systems currently in use (ISO9000, ISO14000).
official documents regarding the two strategies on
sustainable development promoted by the federal 3 – Literature review on quality manage-
government (2002, 2008–2011), paying particular at- ment and quality improvement in the pub-
tention to the correlation between public policy con-
ceptualisation and policy evaluation (MONET sys- lic sector
The two national cases are not fully comparable; Before going into a detailed analysis of the various
the Italian one is very descriptive in nature and it is experiences (see the following paragraphs), we have
focused on the introduction and consolidation of CSR decided to identify three key variables, as shown in
as the first step towards ISO 26000; while the Swiss Chart 1, in order to get a better understanding of “if
case is seen through the lens of sustainable develop- and how” the two public administration systems ana-
ment and the ISO 26000 framework. lyzed will be able to respond to the challenge of ISO

Chart l – Trends in quality and accountability in public administration

Accountability and social


Sustanaibility reports

Towards ISO 26000

In public sector

ISO 9001
Quality management EFQM model for excellence
and quality
ISO 14001
Environmental management CAF model assessment

In fact, empirical analysis and research on PA The first dynamic is a progressive introduction of
modernization processes, development of the new quality standards, from the Standards ISO 9001 on
public management systems and tools and public gov- Quality Management to the Standards ISO 14001 on
ernance in the two countries suggests that introduc- Environmental Management.
tion of ISO 26000 could be supported by the consoli- Various types of public administrations (national
dation and dissemination of three relevant dynamics, and local governments, public enterprises and public
which have been of particular interest to the public agencies operating in the health and education sec-
administration for the past twenty years (Walsh, tors) have been interested in implementation of the
1991; Bendell, Boulter, and Kelly, 1994; Kaboolian, quality standards. This has led to a solid consolidation
1998). of the culture for the improvement of quality within
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the public sector (Engel, 2003; Castledine and by notions of Results Orientation, Customer Focus,
Bannister, 1996). People Development and Involvement, Continuous
Quality standards are based on the use of sys- Learning, Innovation and Improvement, Partnerships
tems and procedures for controlling quality. Quality Development, and Corporate Social Responsibility
systems require having in place such organizational (
structure, responsibilities, documented procedures The Public Administration, particularly at the
and work instructions, processes and resources for European level, has developed an original and inde-
implementing Quality Management, that provide for a pendent approach to the notion of excellence and self-
guiding framework that ensures that whatever process evaluation of quality (Mendes, 2001).
is performed the same information, methods, skills The European Institute of Public Administration
and controls are used and practised every time and in (EIPA, has introduced a method called
a consistent manner (Saner, 2002; Dale, 1994, cited in the Common Assessment Framework (CAF), which is
Yong and Wilkinson, 2001; Sun, 2000; Stephens, widely used by the European Public Administrations
1994). (Engel and Fitzpatrick, 2003; Engel, 2002).
Moreover, the emphasis on the culture of quality CAF combines assessment of the enablers and
has facilitated the development of the customer satis- the results, as set in the EFQM model, followed by an
faction approach and the system of Customer Rela- identification of the potential areas for improvement
tionship Management (CRM), as well as the growing and then by a plan of measures for improvement in
PA’s orientation towards their citizens (Scharitzer these areas (the relevance of these approaches for
and Korunka, 2000; for a critical discussion of this benchmarking is discussed by Löffler, 2001).
trend, also see Politt, 2000). Finally, the third important dynamic is the im-
For the general framework of the different tools plementation of the accountability of PA in the cus-
implemented in the field of quality improvement in tomer service provision to its citizens and various
the public sector see Chart 2. stakeholders within the framework of the current so-
The second important dynamic is associated with cial and economic system (Callahan, 2006; Bovaird,
the worldwide spread of models for quality and excel- 2005; McKinney and Howard, 1998).
lence, e.g. the EFQM model for excellence, as a radi- In order to fulfil the accountability requirements,
cal deviation from the TQM model (Cox, 1995; Löf- the social reporting modality has been developed,
fler, 1996; Radin and Coffee, 1993; for a discussion along with environmental reports, social reporting and
of the relationship between TQM and EFQM model, gender budgeting (see Smith, 2007 for an overview of
see Adebanjo, 2001); the former being characterized different benchmarking models for accountability).

Chart 1 – Quality in the public sector: A reference framework (Meneguzzo et al., 2004)

Quality circles

Social Public Marketing

ISO 9001
ISO 14001

Tools, methods and systems Citizen Charters

Quality awards

Quality improvement
TQM Quality controlling

Onestop-shops for citizen

and enterprise
E-governement G2C
Ferrante A., Gandolfi A., Meneguzzo M. / Economia Aziendale Online 2000 Web 3 (2010) 311 - 321 315

multi-stakeholder approach policy during the 14th

4 – Italy and Switzerland: two approaches Legislature (2001–2006). Moreover, it also worked
out an original contribution to the matter through a
toward TQM and social responsibility
national-level special project.
In May 2004, after the 3rd European Conference
The two analysed countries exhibit considerable dif-
on CSR (Venice, November 2003), the Ministry es-
ferences in timing the introduction and expansion of
tablished the Italian Multi-Stakeholder Forum for
areas for quality certification (ISO), Total Quality
Corporate Social Responsibility (or CSR Forum),
Management (TQM) and social responsibility in their
aimed to encourage and promote the diffusion of CSR
respective social and economic systems in general,
amongst Italian companies and organizations. To
and particularly in the public sector.
meet that requirement, the CSR Forum worked on
Initially, the Italian PA was slow, but later made
fostering transparency and convergence of best prac-
up for lost time. In the mid ‘90s, corresponding to the
tice, on the basis of the relationship between social
jeopardized modality, two national projects were un-
responsibility and sustainable development; pursuing
dertaken, i.e., the projects: CSR – Social commitment
the exchange of national and local experiences and
(2003) and I- CSR (2005) – a public-private partner-
best practice; giving special consideration to small
ship for social responsibility “the Global Compact
and medium enterprises (SMEs).
Local Network” (see next § 5). These two projects
The body was made up of four categories of
were soon accompanied by numerous regional and
stakeholders: employers, trade unions, civil society
local level initiatives according to a bottom-up ap-
(including consumers) and public institutions.
In December 2005, the Italian Forum adopted a
Other significant developments are the creation
report on the activities implemented and the major
of a network of districts with ISO 14001 certification
trends for the development of actions on CSR, focus-
and a network of districts with the Agenda 21; fol-
ing on several particular issues.
lowed by the social and environmental reporting prac-
Firstly, there are some critical factors like: the
tices, the EFQM – national best practices (Cities of
technicality of the language, the asymmetry of infor-
Bologna and Bolzano; see Boscolo et al., 2007) and
mation between stakeholders; then the extreme frag-
the pilot projects of sustainability reporting (Boscolo,
mentation of activities, leading to difficulties in re-
grouping into a coherent system; and lastly, the need
In Switzerland, attention to the issue of quality
to train personnel.
was brought concurrently with the implementation of
Some favourable items were identified too, such
controlling instruments; thus leading towards imple-
as: the rooting of CSR issues into the companies’ cul-
mentation of the TQM (Total Quality Management)
ture; the active role that confederations and associa-
approach and the ISO quality certification (Saner, Yiu
tions can play; the importance of credibility and repu-
and Levy, 1999). The quality management had an ob-
tation as elements of global competitiveness. All these
vious advantage (for the ISO Headquarters are situ-
issues enforce the idea that competitiveness and inno-
ated in Geneva, CH), as one of the management sys-
vation need the active involvement of personnel and
tems linked to New Public Management, the most
trade unions and an increasing commitment of public
utilized management system at all levels of the ad-
actors because of their fundamental impact on prom-
ulgation and maximum visibility of CSR.
Hence, there was evident integration of the top-
The Italian Forum also listed some possible key
down and bottom-up approaches in Switzerland: from
factors of success for the diffusion of CSR amongst
the Sustainability Development Strategy at the federal
stakeholders: first and foremost, trustworthiness as a
level and ISO 14001 certifications and Agenda 21 at
powerful link between actors; involvement of top
the municipal level, to the sustainability reporting ex-
management; encouragement of a strong, territory-
periments (City of Zurich). The cantonal and munici-
based approach; a constant openness to cooperative
pal administrations, however, have shown little inter-
interaction between all stakeholders, workers and
est for the social reporting, diverging thus, from the
trade unions.
experience of their Italian counterparts.
During the European Conference of Venice in
2003, Italy presented the Corporate Social Responsi-
5 – The Italian experience: from the Min- bility – Social Commitment (CSR-SC) project. Fol-
istry of Labour and Social Policies to the lowing the European Commission propositions, it was
Ministry of Social Solidarity (2001–2008) assumed that all CSR actions implemented by compa-
nies should be voluntary. The CSR-SC project was
The Italian Ministry of Labour and Social Policies, aimed at some fundamental objectives: promoting
following the impulse provided by the Green Paper CSR culture amongst companies and public admini-
on CSR of the European Commission, carried out a stration at all levels of government; supporting and
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aiding the exchange of best practice at national and validity of the voluntary approach and the firm belief
international levels; protecting citizens from dishon- that a law on CSR was not necessary; the idea to fo-
est advertising campaigns. cus on some particular issues (or aggregates) like la-
The project envisaged a three-step route, work- bour, the environment, relations with clients-
ing on the progressive involvement of companies in customers, the relationship with the local communi-
CSR issues, in order to increase the awareness level ties and suppliers, and the strategies of company man-
regarding the advantages coming from CSR practices. agement.
During the first phase, special care was given to Every aggregate was coupled to a predominant
strategies for spreading CSR among companies stakeholder, even if in some cases many stakeholders
through promotion, information dissemination and could be directly involved and interested in that issue.
training initiatives. Then the enterprises, that had vol- The document also called for the active involvement
untarily joined the project had the opportunity to pro- of other Ministries and national public agencies with
ceed to the second phase, working on the social their own sector specific competences on CSR and a
statement (SS) offering a series of quantitative and permanent coordination and co-operation with the re-
qualitative indicators. SS was conceived as an in- gional and local authorities (like provinces and mu-
strument in social reporting; a standard method of nicipalities).
collecting data and presenting information, making it In December 2007, the document was officially
easier to compare and evaluate results. presented in a national meeting, starting the process
Once SS was implemented, companies could that should have led to the first national conference on
send all documents to the Italian CSR Forum. Once CSR, as stated in the Budget Law for 2008. On that
SS had been validated, enterprises were then free to occasion, five working groups were established, in-
decide, on a voluntary basis, to go beyond (the third volving more than 300 experts and practitioners: a
step) and actively participate in social priorities, plan group on governance in Milan, a group on supply
for financing the “social commitment” (SC) fund in chains in Bologna, a group on health and safety in the
the State budget. Donations would be directed to sup- workplace in Naples, a group on regional and local
porting specific projects linked to the priority lists set experiences in Florence and a group on finance in
by the National Action Plan and identified by the Rome.
State and regional and local authorities Conference Lastly, there are some important challenges for
(the Conferenza Unificata) and NGOs. Lastly, the Governments that will most probably be faced with
Italian Centre for Social Responsibility, or I-CSR the massive use of ISO 26000 when implementing
Foundation, was established in Milan in 2005 (Law national laws, regulations and policies. The future
311/2004). standard is intended for numerous organizations, in-
At the beginning of the 15th Legislature, a na- cluding public bodies, and can inspire governmental
tional initiative on CSR was taken on by the new organizations to model their behaviour and policies on
Ministry of Social Solidarity, which had emerged the basis of the guidelines.
from the former Ministry of Labour (Law-decree National governments are expected, as part of
181/2006), resulting in the development of the new their mission, to proactively build up a favourable mi-
institutional framework. lieu for discussion and development of CSR strate-
As a first step, in the summer of 2007, a round gies, operating on three different levels.
table involving the main national stakeholders was At a national level, all departments of govern-
called, in order to share common considerations and ment should co-operate when dealing with CSR
to identify the key factors for a new approach, also in strategies. In the case of Italy, while the Ministry of
light of new international developments. In fact, in Labour has always been the focal point for CSR poli-
2007 at the general G8 Summit in Heiligendamm (6– cies, other offices have competences on the subject.
8 June) focusing on development and responsibility, Let us mention, for instance, the Department for Pub-
the issue of social responsibility was debated and lic Administration, dealing with social reporting
quoted in the final Declarations1. guidelines for public authorities; or the Ministry of
During the second half of 2007, a new Govern- Economic Development, as the National Contact
ment document on CSR was proposed to national Point for the OECD Guidelines on Multinational En-
stakeholders2. The key points were the following: the terprises; or, again, the Ministry of Environment, re-
sponsible for the Green Public Procurement (GPP)
1 Growth and responsibility in the world economy, On an international level, there are various fun-
G8 Summit Declaration, 7 June 2007. Most relevant damental dossiers to deal with. The EU, of course,
points 24 to 26, “Strengthening the principles of cor- hosting the High Level Group on CSR, where repre-
porate social responsibility”.
2 Ministero della Solidarietà Sociale, Proposta di la- le di impresa (RSI) in Italia, 2007, at
voro per il Governo Prodi sulla responsabilità socia-
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sentatives from the member States meet to compare the UNCG principles within a particular geographic
best practices and activities implemented. OECD and context and helping the progress of companies proac-
ILO are two of the major international organizations tively working on the implementation of the ten prin-
(Italy is a member of both), while ISO is now playing ciples. The Italian network – whose secretariat is held
a fundamental role in the international debate. The by FONDACA, Foundation for Active Citizenship –
ISO process for the new guidelines on social respon- is an interesting case among the various local net-
sibility (expected to be approved at the end of 2010 works: today 176 organizations are part of the Italian
after the 8th WG meeting in Denmark) started in network, and 60 are not companies. Listed amongst
2005, with increasing numbers of governments (as associate members are: the Tuscany Regional Author-
well as national mirror committees under the ISO ity, the Italian Workers’ Compensation Authority
umbrella) joining the process. At the last international (INAIL), the Insurance Institute for the Maritime Sec-
working group’s meeting in Copenhagen in May tor (IPSEMA), the Italian Automobile Club Federa-
2010, around 500 experts and observers were present tion (ACI), all being public organizations5.
from 99 countries and 40 various organizations (like
ILO, UNCTAD, the International Chambers of 6 – The Swiss experience: Sustainability
Commerce Organization and so on), including almost
all EU countries as well as the USA, China, Japan
strategies and approaches in the Swiss
and Canada3. Such massive participation clearly indi- Public Sector
cates that the future standard will certainly have im-
pact and that governments want to understand how to Swiss political authorities have always shown a high
cope with this. sensibility and a strong commitment towards sustain-
Finally, on the local level, it is fundamental to able development and social responsibility. The revi-
work with regional and local authorities (or federal or sion of the Swiss Federal Constitution in 1999 saw the
quasi-federal entities). In Italy, where there are 20 explicit and formal enshrinement of sustainable de-
Regions and 106 local provinces, it is vital to monitor velopment in the Swiss constitution. Precisely, Art. 73
the increasing amounts of laws, directives, initiatives, (Sustainable Development) says: “The Confederation
and supported incentives, in order to co-ordinate on and the Cantons shall strive to establish a durable
some fundamental issues, like whether it is useful or equilibrium between nature, in particular its capacity
appropriate to pass a law on CSR; what are the effects to renew itself, and its use by man.” As a result, sus-
of inserting positive evaluations of standards (like tainable development is a tenet to which the Swiss
SA8000 or ISO14001) in public procurement; or to Confederation and cantons are now bound by law.
understand the effects of a participative process en- However, since no supplementary legislation has yet
gaging companies and non-profit sector organizations been enacted, this sets out the obligations of sustain-
into roundtables, and so on. When considering bot- able development in detail, the primary function of
tom-up approaches, it is imperative to recall the case the constitutional provisions is as a vision to guide
provided by the United Nations Global Compact and future action.
the Italian GC network. The UNCG was launched in In 2002 the Swiss Federal Council, in anticipa-
1999 as “a strategic policy initiative for businesses tion of the World Summit on Sustainable Develop-
that are committed to aligning their operations and ment to be held that year in Johannesburg, formulated
strategies with ten universally accepted principles in a Sustainable Development Strategy, which included
the areas of human rights, labour, environment and 15 sustainability criteria for Switzerland derived from
anti-corruption [the anti-corruption principle was the three classic sustainability dimensions (economic,
added in 2004]. By doing so, business can help ensure social and environmental).
that markets, commerce, technology and finance ad- This single, multidimensional strategy aims to in-
vance in ways that benefit economies and societies tegrate the principles of sustainable development
everywhere”4. During the following years, a wide across the board, in every sector of policy and there-
number of national committees or local networks fore the document stresses the importance of involv-
were set up all over the world, with 61 networks op- ing public authorities, at cantonal, regional and mu-
erating today and 25 in the process of being created. nicipal levels, in the implementation of sustainable
These are clusters of participants (companies, but also development, and in encouraging them to adopt their
public and non profit organizations) joining to foster own strategies; so far, no compulsory measure has
been planned for public or private organizations. In
2007, the strategy was revised and a new version has
3 All internal working documents for WG SR can be been released.
found in the ISO Livelink area
4 From the UNCG presentation on 5
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The related Action Plan for the 2008–2011 legis- information about the current situation and trends in
lative period introduced 30 improvement measures social, economic and environmental aspects of sus-
(Swiss Federal Council, 2008). tainable development and to demonstrate Switzer-
The strategy outlined six basic guidelines for land’s position compared to other countries.
sustainable development policy: The MONET system includes 26 topics of rele-
1. Fulfilling our responsibility towards the future vance to sustainable development, and each topic, il-
2. Equal consideration to the environment, econ- lustrated with 4 to 10 indicators (BFS, 2008)6, serves
omy and society as a basis of information for the general public and
3. Recognizing the individual characteristics of the politicians alike.
dimensions of sustainable development However, these indicators do not provide conclu-
4. Integrating sustainable development into all pol- sive information, as an issue as complex as sustain-
icy areas able development cannot be reduced to figures alone.
5. Improving coordination between policy areas and It should be noted here that MONET is reviewed and
enhancing coherence updated regularly, so the choice of indicators may
6. Achieving sustainable development on the basis vary.
of partnership Table 1 gives an overview of the sustainability
reporting models adopted at the three hierarchical lev-
The 2002 strategy was created within the els of the Swiss political system: federal (national),
IDARio (German abbreviation for Interdepartmental cantonal (county), and the communal/regional level.
Rio Committee) framework, a directorate-level inter- We can see that ISO 26000 is currently not men-
departmental committee established by the Federal tioned nor implemented in the Swiss public sector.
Council in 1992 to oversee follow-up activities to Rio We believe, therefore, that an important and
(Swiss Federal Council, 2002), which also created the stimulating avenue for future research could be the
main indicators system for the Swiss public sector, investigation of the potential of ISO 26000 to com-
MONET (see below). plement or to substitute national reference models in
The IDARio later became the Interdepartmental order to plan, manage, control and report social re-
Sustainable Development Committee (ISDC). Ap- sponsibility strategies and activities. For example, at
proximately 30 federal agencies that formulate poli- the municipal level, the City Council of Zurich – the
cies and undertake activities relevant to sustainable biggest city in Switzerland with about 365,000 inhabi-
development sit on the ISDC. In March 2002, concur- tants – obliged itself to follow the principle of sus-
rently with adopting the Sustainable Development tainability (Schulte, 2004).
Strategy 2002, the Federal Council also planned the Although the city of Zurich can be proud of a
renewal of the strategy for 2007. The new document large number of concrete activities contributing to
“Sustainable Development Strategy: Guidelines and sustainable development, it remains a big challenge to
Action Plan 2008–2011” was issued by the Swiss integrate the principle of sustainable development into
Federal Council in April 2008. daily (political) decisions. The Sustainability Report
From a strategic review from ISDC (ISDC, of Zurich is based on 21 indicators, addressing social,
2007a) and a comparative assessment of sustainabil- environmental and economic dimensions (Stad-
ity strategies abroad, the Federal Council has derived tentwicklung Zürich, 2008), and provides the different
eight key strategic priority challenges that form the stakeholders with relevant information7.
basis of its action on sustainable development (Swiss It is worth mentioning that the Kanton Zürich
Federal Council, 2008): Climate change and natural (Zurich County) publishes a Sustainability Report.
hazards, Energy, Spatial development and transport, This report takes into account 33 so-called Target ar-
Economy, production and consumption, Use of natu- eas (in German “Zielbereiche”) in the social, envi-
ral resources, Social cohesion, demography and mi- ronmental and economic dimensions, with 47 key in-
gration, Public health, sport and the promotion of dicators (Knecht and Bühler, 2007).
physical exercise, Global developmental and envi- Recently, not only political authorities, but also
ronmental challenges. important infrastructural projects, such as the Alp
The main indicator system for the monitoring of Transit Project (Schneider, 2004), or big sporting
sustainable development for the Swiss public admini- events, like the UEFA EURO 2008 Football Champi-
stration is MONET (Monitoring Nachhaltiger onship (EURO 2008, 2007a), have devoted significant
Entwicklung). MONET is carried out jointly by the efforts to addressing sustainability issues and includ-
Swiss Federal Statistical Office, the Swiss Agency for ing sustainability criteria in their decisions.
the Environment, Forests & Landscape, and the Swiss
Federal Office for Spatial Development (BFS, 2008).
The system has been designed as a source of in- 6 MONET indicators are regularly updated and are
formation for the public, mass media, politicians, and published on the web, see
the Swiss Federal Government and aims to provide 7 see
Ferrante A., Gandolfi A., Meneguzzo M. / Economia Aziendale Online 2000 Web 3 (2010) 311 - 321 319

Table 1 – Main reporting models and coordinating organizational entities in the Swiss public sector

Major reference models Involved and coordinating entities

Federal Office for Spatial Development ARE; Fed-
eral Office of Public Health FOPH; Federal Office
MONET (see above), Ecological
for Agriculture FOAG; Federal Office for the Envi-
Footprint, Sustainability Assessment
Federal level ronment FOEN; Swiss Agency for Development
framework (for projects, see for ex-
and Cooperation SDC: together they make up the
ample Wachter, 2005)
Interdepartmental Sustainable Development Com-
mittee ISDC leadership body
Cantonal Sustainability strategies, Cantonal governments and offices (e.g. cantons
Cantonal level autonomous indicators models, Bern, Aargau, Basle); NGOs; Forum for sustainable
Agenda 21 Development
Agenda 21, Sustainable strategies of
Regional and Municipalities (e.g. Zurich, Geneva); spontaneous
main cities, ISO 14000, ISO 9000,
municipal level groups; NGOs (e.g. Alliance Sud)
GRI Global reporting Initiative

7 – Some preliminary conclusions works’ Agenda 21 – that are already in place, can en-
able the introduction of ISO 26000.
Before advancing some early conclusions, it is worth The high level of autonomy that characterizes the
mentioning that ISO 26000 represents a challenge for intermediate levels of government in the two coun-
public administrations which aim at enforcing ac- tries (cantons in Switzerland and regions in Italy) and
countability, social and environmental reporting. Fur- the local governments does not seem to play a rele-
thermore, the international debate, including the re- vant role in the achievement of bottom-up principles
cent Quebec meeting (May 2009) will bring new in- according to which the administrations that govern the
tegrations and revisions to the Committee Draft. territories anticipate the issues of social, economical
The comparative analysis allows two significant and environmental sustainability through their own
conclusions to be drawn, to be validated in future innovative policies.
studies and research.
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