ISEAL Credibility Principles

There are hundreds of standards and certification schemes on the market – but some are more credible than others. The ISEAL Credibility Principles represent the core values on which effective sustainability systems are built.

We developed the Credibility Principles through a global consultation with a diverse group of more than 400 stakeholders. Our goal was to pinpoint the fundamental qualities that make sustainability systems most likely to achieve positive impacts.

The principles provide a guide for any system that assesses sustainability. Companies, governments and NGOs can also use them as a reference point for benchmarking or internal audits.

ISEAL is currently revising the Credibility Principles and is engaging stakeholders in consultations. Read about the revision process and consultations

The ISEAL Credibility Principles


Standards scheme owners clearly define and communicate their sustainability objectives and approach to achieving them. They make decisions that best advance these objectives.


Standards scheme owners seek to understand their impacts and measure and demonstrate progress towards their intended outcomes. They regularly integrate learning and encourage innovation to increase benefits to people and the environment.


Standards are fit for purpose. They address the most significant sustainability impacts of a product, process, business or service; only include requirements that contribute to their objectives; reflect best scientific understanding and relevant international norms; and are adapted where necessary to local conditions.


All components of a standards system are structured to deliver outcomes. In particular, standards are set at a performance level that results in measurable progress towards the scheme's sustainability objectives, while assessments of compliance provide an accurate picture of whether an entity meets the standard's requirements.


Standards-setters engage a balanced and representative group of stakeholders in standards development. Standards systems provide meaningful and accessible opportunities to participate in governance, assurance and monitoring and evaluation. They empower stakeholders with fair mechanisms to resolve complaints.


Standards systems identify and mitigate conflicts of interest throughout their operations, particularly in the assurance process and in governance. Transparency, accessibility and balanced representation contribute to impartiality.


Standards systems make relevant information freely available about the development and content of the standard, how the system is governed, who is evaluated and under what process, impact information and the various ways in which stakeholders can engage.


To reduce barriers to implementation, standards systems minimise costs and overly burdensome requirements. They facilitate access to information about meeting the standard, training, and financial resources to build capacity throughout supply chains and for actors within the standards system.


Claims and communications made by actors within standards systems and by certified entities about the benefits or impacts that derive from the system or from the purchase or use of certified product or service are verifiable, not misleading, and enable an informed choice.


Standards systems refer to or collaborate with other credible scheme to improve consistency and efficiency in standards content and operating practices. They improve their viability through the application of sound revenue models and organisational management strategies.

The ISEAL Credibility Principles are the result of a year long consultation with contributions from more than 400 stakeholders from five continents.

They represent the values and concepts that are embraced by sustainability standards systems that are most likely to achieve the ultimate aim of bringing about positive social, environmental and economic impacts, while decreasing negative impacts.


For more information, please contact our Director of Innovations, Patrick Mallet,