Sustainability issues

ISEAL members address a wide range of sustainability concerns, here are four that ISEAL is focusing on.


Conserving forests is a key aim of many ISEAL members. Several agricultural standards include criteria to prevent the conversion of forests and improve landscape resilience, while the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) runs the most respected global certification programme for responsible forest management.

Governments and businesses have made ambitious pledges to end deforestation and restore landscapes, and recognise the importance of credible certification in achieving these goals. For example, the Consumer Goods Forum cites FSC, Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil and Round Table on Responsible Soy certification as key tools for businesses to meet their commitments to deforestation-free supply chains by 2020.

Better work

Sustainability standards support economic productivity and entrepreneurship, and improve workers’ safety, rights and wellbeing. This contributes directly to Sustainable Development Goal 8 on Decent Work. ISEAL member standards are also working to tackle issues such as child labour, and to ensure workers receive fair wages and other benefits. For example, several ISEAL members have come together to form the Global Living Wage Coalition, and ISEAL is working in partnership with The Sustainable Food Lab and GIZ on the Living Income Community of Practice.


Climate change is a vital issue across all sectors, and many sustainability standards support efforts to reduce carbon emissions, for example Rainforest Alliance's work to advance climate-smart land management. These efforts may include requiring producers to measure and reduce their emissions, and to increase energy efficiency and the use of renewable energy. Standards can also promote carbon sequestration through preventing deforestation, better soil management or restoring tree cover.

Smallholder livelihoods

ISEAL member standards aim to improve smallholders’ livelihoods and increase incomes by improving yield and quality – and studies have shown this to be the case for a number of different standards and context. Many ISEAL members provide training and outreach services to small producers, and research shows that ISEAL members’ standards systems are more supportive and accessible to small producers than other standards. Several of our members are collaborating on ISEAL’s Demonstrating and Improving Poverty Impacts project, which aims to improve understanding of how their programmes contribute to sustainable rural livelihoods and pro-poor development. ISEAL members have agreed a set of common poverty indicators and developed monitoring and evaluation systems, and will report back on their collective impacts.