AccountAbility is to launch an exposure draft of the first international standard for stakeholder engagement: the AA1000SES.

The AA1000SES exposure draft, according to AccountAbility’s Head of Standards, Alan Knight answers an urgent need to establish a clear and agreed basis for quality stakeholder engagement. ‘In our view, giving stakeholders the right to be heard – and obliging organisations to respond – advances organisational performance in line with the imperatives of sustainable development,’ he said.

The standard is a principle-based, open-source framework that offers coherent and practical guidance for designing, implementing, and assuring the quality of stakeholder engagements. It can be used by a wide range of users, including businesses, civil society, labour organisations, and public agencies and for a wide range of applications, from the micro, organisation-specific level to macro-level engagements on major societal concerns, expectations and outcomes.

The AA1000SES is consistent with the AccountAbility Assurance Standard AA1000AS, complements the work of other standards bodies such as the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) and Social Accountability International (SAI), and supports developments in areas such as organisational learning, quality management, transparency, reporting and governance.

The AA1000SES exposure draft has been developed in consultation with, and has been welcomed by, CSR practitioners, policy and operational researchers, civil society and business leaders and representatives from other standards bodies. Felix Dodds, Executive Director of the Stakeholder Forum for a Sustainable Future, said, ‘AccountAbility is to be congratulated on taking this important step. For too long the involvement of stakeholders in processes has been too fudgy. We welcome the introduction of a standard that will help to identify greenwash and real stakeholder engagement.’ Jorge Cajezeira Suzano, Co-Chair ISO Working Group on Social Responsibility said, ‘In developing ISO 26000 on Social Responsibility ISO has found that it has had to adjust its processes to ensure greater engagement of interested parties. In this sense the experience of AA 1000SES, designed for all those initiating, participating in, observing, assessing, assuring and communicating about stakeholder engagement will be essential. Additionally, AA 1000 expertise is one of the key inputs to the ISO 26000 development process.’

The AA1000SES exposure draft will be available from September 22, 2005. AccountAbility will be organising trials in partnership with international business networks to support the continual improvement of practice and the standard. The pilots will begin shortly after the release of the exposure draft and will last for approximately 12 months. AccountAbility also welcomes informal feedback from any organisation that uses the exposure draft over the next year. For further information on the AA1000SES contact Alan Knight at AccountAbility on 020 7549 0400 or alan@accountability.org.uk .