Research webinar 2: Exploring the design of social sustainability standards

Research webinar 2: Exploring the design of social sustainability standards

This webinar, as part of ISEAL's webinar series on latest research on standards’ impacts, presents research findings that highlight the key differences between measurement systems; those focused on assessing compliance and those emphasizing continuous improvement across the supply chain. In this context, the research explores the role of the standard setter, variation in approaches to assessing social sustainability and key areas of shared good practice. The webinar, held on 28th April 2016, shares the findings of recent empirical research on the design of measurement systems used to assess the social sustainability of global supply chains. Data collected from ten international voluntary assessment initiatives has been analysed using the Deming cycle of plan-do-check-act. The findings highlight key differences between measurement systems as some appeared to be focused on assessing compliance whereas others emphasised continuous improvement across the supply chain. Standards focused exclusively on compliance demonstrated a weak link between the check and act stages of the cycle. Those focused on continuous improvement adopted a longer timeframe of assessment and made explicit the goal of improving labour practices across the entire supply chain. The findings raise questions about the role of the standard setter; is it to act as a watchdog, collaborative partner or both? The findings also highlight the variation in approaches to assessing social sustainability, thus demonstrating that there is no standard practice for assessment. Whilst differing approaches to assessment may be appropriate, the discussion will explore whether there are key areas of similarity whereby good practice can be shared.