In the early days
At the end of the 1990s four certification organisations – Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM), Fairtrade and Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) – came together to discuss the feasibility and benefits of working in closer collaboration. Although these organisations cover different sectors – timber, fish, organic and fair-trade agriculture – they recognised areas where their systems overlapped and in November 2000 they agreed to create a formal organisation. Soon, four more organisations – International Organic Accreditation Service, Marine Aquarium Council, Rainforest Alliance and Social Accountability International – were on board and in 2002 the International Social and Environmental Accreditation and Labelling Alliance (now just referred to as the ISEAL Alliance) was registered in the UK as not-for-profit organisation.
The aim of the newly formed ISEAL Alliance was to enable collaboration between its members and coordinate and represent their common interests to government and other key stakeholders.
Coming to a common understanding of best practice
The creation of an independent organisation also provided an opportunity to develop a common understanding of the best practices for setting sustainability standards. This resulted in the first of ISEAL’s Codes of Good Practice, the Standard-Setting Code, which was launched in 2004.
In 2010, we launched the ISEAL Impacts Code, which provides a process for how standard systems can effectively measure and evidence their contribution to social and environmental impacts on the ground. Our third code, the ISEAL Assurance code, is currently in development. This code aims to provide guidance on how to ensure that certification to standards is both rigorous but also accessible and affordable to small scale enterprises.
All full members of ISEAL must meet the requirements of the ISEAL Codes of Good Practice. Associate members have one year to come into full compliance. Our Associate Membership programme was launched in December 2007 to give newer standards an opportunity to work towards full ISEAL membership.
Growing our community
Since the beginning, ISEAL’s community has expanded beyond our members to include representatives from business, government, civil society and academia. In 2010 we established the ISEAL Stakeholder Council, bringing together influential leaders that have in-depth sustainability knowledge and experience. The aim of the Stakeholder Council is to incorporate the voices and ideas of people that use and care about credible standards, into the development of our good practice codes and strategic planning.
Through our community we have also been able to undertake research that explores solutions to the challenges faced by standard-setters and those that engage with them. This has led to the publication of some of our most important reports including the ISEAL 100 and the Scaling Up Strategy, which were both published in 2011.
Our community continues to grow with a broad range of individuals and organisations entering into the ISEAL subscriber pool (called the ISEAL "affiliates" prior to 2013). Each year, ISEAL subscribers and members come together at the ISEAL conference. Since 2010, the ISEAL conference has also included a public day; attracting attendees from the corporate world and beyond.
In 2012 ISEAL expanded its reach further by beginning a programme of work in emerging economies; identifying opportunities for standards to be used to address sustainability issues in Brazil, India and China.
Our history at a glance
Below you can view a timeline of ISEAL's most important milestones since its establishment in 2002 as well as some of the significant developments for sustainability standards in the past decade.