Many sustainability systems specify the management practices that producers and factories should follow. In the case of standards, this allows them to be eligible for certification, and ultimately be deemed “responsible” or “sustainable”.
This approach does not easily allow an entity to make a claim about a specific aspect of its social and environmental performance; and neither does it act as an incentive to drive them to improve over time. This approach isn't helpful for sustainability systems either: it makes it difficult for them to report on their impacts and to target their support to enterprises where it's most needed.
Sustainability systems have been experimenting with a number of innovations in response to this issue, including:
converting the practices specified in the standards or programme requirements into outcome-based metrics and setting improvement targets
investing in performance measurement tools, including self-assessments, to drive continual improvement
- implementing metric-based data and reporting frameworks related to the sustainability goals they're aiming to achieve.
The SDGs are proving useful in helping to define these metrics and promoting interoperability between sustainability tools which are using different strategies to achieve the same sustainability outcomes. By aligning on metrics, systems can support whole sectors to measure their performance and demonstrate impact, as well as assess the effectiveness of that change in guiding further improvements.