Information on the outcomes, impacts and business case of voluntary sustainability standards (VSS) and VSS-like mechanisms is essential for assessing contributions of these tools, for informing corporate sourcing, government policy, and procurement decisions; and for continuously improving the effectiveness of VSS and similar mechanisms.
More evidence is available today based on the efforts of standards systems and the academic community, however, decision-makers cannot easily identify what information already exists and gaps persist between perceived information needs and availability.
Making it easier to find and understand evidence on the effectiveness of sustainability standards
A new project being implemented by ISEAL aims to build a Global Impacts Platform. The goal is to make it easier for researchers and decision-makers to find and understand the existing evidence base on the effectiveness of VSS and associated mechanisms, so that evidence is more effectively integrated into decision-making.
A number of outputs will help us achieve this:
- Global online database and knowledge platform on the impacts of VSS and VSS-like mechanisms on low deforestation commodities. This will build on ISEAL’s existing standardsimpacts.org website that houses reports, articles, and analysis but with additional functionality that makes information easily accessible to all key audience groups.
- Documents synthesizing research results on select sustainability outcomes disseminated to key decision makers.
- In person engagement with decision makers and stakeholders at knowledge-sharing events, fostering learning and adaptive management toward increasing the effectiveness of VSS and VSS-like mechanisms.
What difference will this make?
The outputs of this project will contribute toward three high-level objectives:
- It will make existing evidence on VSS and similar tools readily accessible and useable to decision-makers and others, for instance through a range of searching, filtering, and mapping tools.
- It will support credible synthesis and communication of the evidence base and will actively disseminate findings to ensure broad understanding of the effectiveness of different approaches to achieving reduced deforestation supply chains.
- It will clearly identify research gaps and priorities for researchers and funders, minimizing duplication and misalignment of research efforts.
Taken together, fulfilment of these three objectives will help companies and others identify and implement effective mechanisms for sustainable production and sourcing, and will help improve the effectiveness of all such mechanisms over time.
Timeline and delivery
The project runs until 31 March 2021.
The public launch is planned for mid-2019 and each year of the project will produce new research synthesis outputs, which will be disseminated through the platform.
Scoping for the Global Impacts Platform
An extensive scoping exercise was undertaken to assess the needs of the platform users, and its features. As part of the scoping work an online survey was conducted aimed at 600 ‘policy-maker’ contacts on ISEAL’s database, these included respondents from public sector & intergovernmental organisations.
37 Semi-structured interviews were conducted with a range of stakeholders such as platform developers, managers in the sustainability space, researchers working in the domain of voluntary sustainability standards and corporates.
ISEAL Alliance is implementing the Global Impacts Platform. The project’s implementation partners are the Rainforest Alliance and WWF US – Markets.
The project is governed by a project coordination committee whose responsibility is to support the coherent and effective implementation of the project. The committee makes strategic decisions about how to focus resources and effort, and provides oversight and decision-making related to administration and overall delivery of this project.
The committee is supported by a multi-stakeholder advisory group who provide guidance, input and feedback on overall functionality of the platform, user needs, outreach and communication of project outputs as well as future sustainability of the project.