As sustainability standards demonstrate their impacts and increase their influence in global markets, opportunities for working more closely with governments have grown. From incentivising industry uptake to incorporating standards directly into legislation, public sectors have a range of options for using standards, but they need clarity to ensure their approaches are effective.
ISEAL aims to support governments to determine which standards are credible, and to maximise the value of standards as a sustainable development tool. With our expertise and convening power, we seek to advance knowledge and address issues such as:
- Collaboration and interface between national and international standards
- How standards can be a tool for sustainable trade
- Government benchmarking and recognition of credible standards
- How to effectively build standards into public procurement
Currently, ISEAL is especially focused on sustainable public procurement, which we have identified as a primary vehicle through which governments can use standards and a departure point for them to apply standards more broadly.
ISEAL also focuses on playing a strong advocacy role within the standards movement to create an enabling policy environment for the increased adoption of credible standards.
Government use of sustainability standards
Credible standards and certification are one of the few proven approaches for making production and consumption more responsible. Standards represent a viable pathway for governments to advance their sustainability goals and can complement other strategies and tools. The diverse and dynamic roles that sustainability standards can play are just beginning to be realised. They include:
- Improving the social and environmental performance of public bodies or assets
- Referencing or endorsing credible standards in guidance or legislation
- Recognising certification as proof of compliance with government requirements
- Implementing policies or regulations that favour certified products in procurement
- Using standards as input into the development of government regulations or standards
In recent years, we have seen engagement between governments and standards increase and many examples of ISEAL member standards systems and other schemes being incorporated into public policy.
- EU recognition of Bonsucro and Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials in its Renewable Energy Directive
- Innovative London Olympics food vision which stipulated Fairtrade certification for all coffee, tea, sugar and bananas
- UK Timber Public Procurement Policy which recognises FSC certication as evidence of sustainability and legality
- Brazilian governments engaging with Green Building Council / LEED to develop own sustainability criteria
- MSC, FSC, and SA8000 certification of state-owned fisheries, forests and factories across the world