Frequently asked questions

Hamro Ghar, GoodWeave’s rehabilitation center in Nepal, is typically the first s
Hamro Ghar, GoodWeave’s rehabilitation center in Nepal, is typically the first stop for rescued child weavers. Photo © GoodWeave

Click on the questions below to see the answers. If you would like to suggest your own questions please email us.

Can I become an auditor for ISEAL?
ISEAL is not an accreditation or certification body. It might be best to contact our members, some of whom are accreditation bodies and others of which are standard-setting organisations, to find out about open auditor positions.
Can I get some examples of best practice in stakeholder mapping for my standard–setting organisation?
We are planning in the future to make some of our guidance documents and credibility tools available to emerging standards systems. The best thing to do now is to read through the pages on our web site about credibility including our Codes of Good Practice and then if you would like more information please contact our Community Support Coordinator, Rosie Forsyth at
Does certification cover the whole life of a product?
Generally certification covers only the production stage of the product. For example, certification of a banana farm only relates to the growing and harvesting of the bananas on that farm, but does not cover the practices involved in transporting the bananas or processing them into another food product.
How can I learn more about ISEAL’s work and receive news about sustainability standards?
One of the benefits of being a member or affiliate of ISEAL is the exclusive access to online content, interactive discussions and a monthly newsletter, which together form a budding sustainability standards community. We publish a bi-monthly public Bulletin that includes updates on ISEAL projects and the work of our members, as well as special features and articles, such as interviews with sustainability leaders and topical stories about the sustainability standards landscape. You can subscribe for the ISEAL Bulletin here. You can also follow us on Twitter.
How do I join ISEAL?
For more information on how to become an ISEAL member, click here. If you would like to find out about becoming an ISEAL Affiliate, please click here.
How do I make sense of all the labels out there?
There is a vast array of claims and labels on products declaring sustainability. It is therefore important for businesses and consumers to ask what systems or standards lie behind the claim or label, and how have such standards been developed and assessed for compliance. ISEAL is working to help users of sustainability standards distinguish between labels and understand the characteristics of top notch standards. Click here to find out more.
Is it really worth it to comply with ISEAL Codes and become an ISEAL member? Consumers don’t know what ISEAL means.
Governments and major corporations increasingly know about ISEAL and that ISEAL members are leaders in their field. Governments often reference the ISEAL Standard-Setting Code in their regulations, and companies are increasingly engaging with ISEAL at our conferences and events because they see our value of helping standards systems to scale up their impacts and become more effective through collaborative learning. For emerging systems, such as the major commodity roundtables supported by WWF, ISEAL membership is one of the criteria for WWF’s support and influence. To read a sample of what our members are saying about the value ISEAL brings to them, click here.
What does chain of custody mean?
Chain of custody refers to the steps that track raw materials from their origins (farm, forest, ocean, etc.) through to products on a shelf. Chain of custody certification usually refers to the certification of an operation involved in the transformation, processing, manufacturing or distribution of a natural resource based product.
What impact do standards have on sustainability?
ISEAL members have had a major role in transforming productive sectors toward sustainability. Our members have actively contributed to the development of ISEAL Impacts Code and recognise the importance of understanding and communicating the impacts of their programs. For general information on the impacts sustainability standards have within a sector, click here.
What is a sustainability standard?
A sustainability standard is a set of principles and criteria that have been put together to define good social and environmental practices in a specific sector, crop or industry. In the case of ISEAL members, these standards are voluntary, private and have been developed by a wide group of stakeholders. In most cases, a certification programme has also been set up to assure compliance with the standard by the operations (farms, forests, factories, etc.) seeking certification to that standard.
What is certification?
Certification refers to assuring compliance with a sustainability standard. Often this is done through a third-party audit, whereby an independent auditor or auditing team visits the operation to assess practices against the standard.
What is the difference between a full and associate member at ISEAL?
Full members of ISEAL are in compliance with the ISEAL Codes of Good Practice. Associate members have proven that they have the structures in place for an effective standards system but are in a one-year period of transition to compliance with the ISEAL Codes.
What is the difference between an ISEAL member and an ISEAL subscriber?
ISEAL membership is open only to standard-setting organisations and accreditation bodies and is for organisations that are committed to comply with ISEAL Codes of Good Practice. ISEAL subscribers refer to a larger group of organisations - corporations, NGOs, standard-setters, consulting firms, producer groups, etc - and individuals that are committed to scaling up the impacts of sustainability standards. ISEAL subscribers gain access to ISEAL’s webinars, online community and group discussions. Some subscribers collaborate with ISEAL and our members in a range of projects.
What is the difference between a standard and a regulation?
Sustainability standards such as those developed by ISEAL members are voluntary, private and market-based. Operations such as tea farms or fishing operations make a choice to seek certification or verification to the standard. On the other hand, regulations are developed by governments and compliance is a mandatory prerequisite for doing business. Today we are seeing closer engagement between governments and sustainability standards, with governments starting to reference standards.
What is the difference between ISO and ISEAL?
ISO (International Organisation for Standardisation) is a developer and publisher of international standards. Many of its members are part of the governmental structures of their countries or are mandated by their government. Others are more firmly rooted in industry associations. ISO standards are, for the most part, not environmental and/or social in their objectives and instead focus on technical specifications. A subset of ISO standards focus on management processes, including some that are socially or environmentally focused. ISEAL is not a developer of standards but a network organisation comprised of the leading, private and voluntary standards systems that focus on environmental and/or social objectives. ISEAL sets Codes of Good Practice that guide the operation of social and environmental standards systems. Like ISO, we are not an accreditation body, and we do not carry out certification. ISEAL’s work focuses on defining credibility for sustainability standards, fostering collaborative learning among our members, and promoting increased uptake of credible standards.
What makes a standard credible?
For more information on the credibility principles that are shared by ISEAL members, click here. The principles represent the values and characteristics of high quality standards. ISEAL provides additional guidance on how to interpret and apply the principles through our Codes of Good Practice and related credibility tools.
What separates ISEAL members from other standards?
ISEAL members are among the most credible standards globally due to their commitment to a set of Credibility Principles that form the foundation for ISEAL’s Codes of Good Practice. ISEAL’s Code of Good Practice for Setting Social and Environmental Standards, with which all ISEAL full members comply, has become the global reference for high quality standard-setting. ISEAL codes are critical tools to articulate stakeholder expectations of how credible standards systems should operate.
Where do most certified products come from?
It depends on the sector. For example, most certified cocoa is from West Africa, Southeast Asia and Latin America. Certified forest products come from all over the globe. For more information on sustainability standards within specific sectors, click here.
Who is the person in your organisation responsible for helping standard-setting organisations with their processes?
ISEAL’s Credibility team are focused on helping existing and emerging standards systems with guidance on good practices. Here is a small list of some of the people who can help with this and other topics. You may also wish to refer to our staff page to find the person who can most help you or send a general email to and we’ll put you in touch with the person best suited to answer your question. For enquiries about standard setting, contact Patrick Mallet, Credibility Director at For enquiries about credibility and claims, contact Amy Jackson, Senior Credibility Manager, at For enquiries about assurance, contact Paddy Doherty, Credibility Manager, at For enquiries about the impacts of sustainability standards or our researcher network, contact Kristin Komives, Senior M&E Manager, at For enquiries about ISEAL membership, ISEAL affiliates, or the annual conference, contact Rosie Forsyth, Community Support Coordinator, at For press related enquiries, contact Lara Koritzke, Director of Communications at For jobs at ISEAL, contact Alke Horn, HR Manager, at
Why should companies adopt standards?
Credible standards like those that have achieved ISEAL membership can help companies attain their social and environmental objectives, bring transparency to supply chains, enhance corporate reputations, reduce costs, manage supply chain risks and support CSR goals. Businesses are engaging deeply with sustainability standards through purchasing commitments, market development, project support, standards governance, and other expertise. ISEAL is also increasingly working with companies as part of our strategy to greatly increase the use of credible sustainability standards.