Most sustainability standards are designed is to specify the management practices that producers and factories should follow to be eligible for certification and ultimately deemed “responsible” or “sustainable”.
This approach does not easily allow a certified entity to make a claim about a specific aspect of their social and environmental performance. It also does not act as an incentive to drive them to improve over time. For standards organisations' this approach is also not helpful. It makes it difficult for them to report on their impacts and to target their support to enterprises where it is needed most.
In response to this some standards have been experimenting with a number of innovations. These include:
Converting the practices specified in their standards 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 are aiming to achieve
The SDGs are proving to be useful to help define these metrics and promote interoperability between sustainability tools that are using different strategies to achieve the same sustainability outcomes. By aligning on metrics, standards can support whole sectors to measure their performance and demonstrate impact, as well as assess the effectiveness of that change to determine further steps to improve.