Standard-Setting Code

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The ISEAL Code of Good Practice for Setting Social and Environmental Standards defines effective standard-setting processes, thereby increasing the credibility of the resulting standard.

The Standard-Setting Code applies to all standards that aim to have positive social or environmental impacts. It focuses on the standards development process, as well as on the structure and content of the standard. It captures the good practices that should be followed in standards development for any sector or product to ensure the standard is credible, effective and achieves its objectives.

The Standard-Setting Code is ISEAL's most widely recognised document and has been referenced and used by a variety of institutions including the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), World Bank, UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and WWF.

Newly Revised in December 2014

The Code was released in 2004 and was updated in 2010 and again in 2014. ISEAL completed the latest revision of the Standard-Setting Code between November 2013 and August 2014. Version 6 of the Standard-Setting Code was approved by the ISEAL Board in December 2014 and published on this site in February 2015.  Click here to find out more about the revision process and consultation.

Take a look inside

Download the Standard-Setting Code

About the Code

ISEAL associate members must meet the baseline criteria of the Standard-Setting Code, while full members must successfully pass through an independent evaluation to show compliance with the improvement criteria in the Standard-Setting Code. For more information about the pathway to membership, click here. The Code is also valuable to organisations outside of ISEAL membership that want to use it as guidance for developing their systems.

The criteria of the Code and the practices it promotes are underpinned by the ISEAL Credibility Principles, such as relevance, engagement and transparency. The Code covers critical issues that organisations must consider when developing a standard. Some requirements relate to the standards development process, such as clearly defining objectives and intended outcomes, involving interested and affected stakeholders, and regularly reviewing the standard. Other requirements relate to the structure and content of the standard, such as ensuring that the standard addresses important sustainability challenges, balancing global consistency and local applicability, and harmonising with other standards systems where possible.

For more information

For more information about the Standard-Setting Code, please contact ISEAL's Senior Community and Learning Coordinator, Rosie Forsyth at, or sign up to our Standard-Setting mailing list.

“The most valuable contributions of ISEAL membership for us this year were several aspects of the Standard-Setting Code relating to transparency and timelines. For example, some of the things we are asking of our International Standards Committee have been substantiated and accepted because of their roots in ISEAL requirements.”

-- Alliance for Water Stewardship

Related information and resources

Draft Interpretation of clause 6.4.3, Local Applicability, ISEAL Standard-Setting Code v6

Draft Interpretation under consultation to clarify process for recognising existing standards as equivalent.

Why international sustainability standards need applicability at a local level

ISEAL releases new guidance on how considering local applicability in the standards development process can help support the strategic aims of a system.

Independent Evaluation Mechanism for Assessing ISEAL Code Compliance

This procedure provides an outline of steps taken by the Independent Evaluation panel to assess ISEAL's members' compliance with ISEAL's Codes of Good Practice.

ISEAL Standard-Setting Code

Download the latest version of the ISEAL Code of Good Practice for Setting Social and Environmental Standards.

ISEAL's Good Practice Guidance Explained (ISEAL Webinar)

In this webinar, you can learn about some of the credible practices that ISEAL promotes through our Codes, particularly the Standard-Setting and Impacts Codes, which underwent revisions in 2014.

Open Consultation for RSB's Principles & Criteria

Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials opens a 60 Day Consultation on its Principles & Criteria.

ISEAL Standard-Setting Code v5.3: Comments and Responses from the Second Consultation

A list of comments received from stakeholders during the second consultation for the revision of the Standard-Setting Code and ISEAL's responses.

ISEAL Standard-Setting Code Draft v5.3 July 2014

The final draft revision of the Standard-Setting Code Draft v5.3 that will provisionally be put forward for approval by the ISEAL Technical Committee and Board of Director in September 2014.

Second Public consultation on the Standard-Setting Code now open

Revision to the ISEAL Standard Setting Code is underway until 31 May. The new version will streamline the Code, eliminate redundancy and integrate the Credibility Principles. Here is an update on the outcomes of the first public consultation and information on how to give your feedback.

Standard-Setting Code Revision Draft v 5.2 and Comment Form

Attached below is a pdf version in table format of v5.2 of the draft Standard-Setting Code under revision. This is a reference document. The Excel document lists the proposed structure and criteria for version 5.2 of the Standard-Setting Code with a link of criteria to desired outcome and the relevant Credibility Principles that apply. This Excel document serves as the Comment Form. We invite your comments during this public consultation 1 April - 31 May 2014.