Sustainability standards and GIS technology

High quality spatial data from satellites and other sources is generating a visual picture of how sustainability metrics are changing on the ground. Standards organisations are using this technology to help them make strategic and operational decisions.

Monitoring the expansion of cities or calculating deforestation rates in real time is made possible through our ability to capture, analyse and present spatial or geographic data. The increased use and accessibility of technologies including satellites and handheld global positioning systems (GPS) devices has transformed the world of geographic information systems (GIS) and increased the availability of real-time spatial data.

A number of schemes have shown that GIS can really help standards assess the performance and impact of certification by combining their own data sets, such as the location of a certified operation, with other layers of data related to deforestation, water scarcity, education, etc. This is very powerful. It paints a clear picture of the facts on the ground, and enables standards to deliver a more tailored approach to assessing compliance and capacity-building.

In supporting innovation, ISEAL has focused on helping standards better harness the power of GIS both individually and collectively. Projects include:

  • improving auditors’ abilities to use GIS tools for sustainability auditing
  • offering support to develop a Certification Atlas, a single data layer showing the location of all certified operations around the world.