Looking back, pushing forward: ISEAL memories from 2016

China field tour training courtesy of Rainforest Alliance
China field tour training courtesy of Rainforest Alliance
While 2016 was a painful year for the world in so many ways, we nonetheless reflect on what made 2016 an important year for the evolution of the sustainability standards movement. As we look forward to our many ambitious goals as an Alliance, we know that 2017 will be a challenging one, but we are ready.

A new strategy to 2020

At the very end of the year ISEAL launched our new strategy for the next four years.  Called “Driving sustainability at scale” it focuses on how ISEAL members aspire to be relevant, inclusive, collaborative and effective sustainability platforms that positively impact the world’s most urgent problems. 

Launch of new programme to drive innovations

The Swiss government has partnered with us once again, re-affirming its long-standing engagement in the field of private, voluntary sustainability standards by supporting the new ISEAL innovations programme. ISEAL is  driving our innovations programme to be learning and improvement focused, with peer-to-peer working groups as the main method that brings the entire standards community forward.  The programme includes a dedicated fund for testing new ideas.  The fund already had support from the UK Government, the US-based Walton Family Foundation and Packard Foundation, but it was augmented in 2016 with 5 million CHF boost from the Swiss government. 

Launch of the new web site standardsimpacts.org to bring together evidence

We now have a deep understanding of the current state of evidence on sustainability standards’ impacts and performance. The standards impacts site is a large part of this and has been set up to help companies and other organisations find independent evidence to support their sustainable sourcing decisions. The site provides a wealth of credible evidence that illustrates the positive impacts and business case for sustainability standards. Already thousands of people have visited the site and more than 100 reports and resources are hosted there.

Showing the world how ISEAL members are ‘making a real mark’

We began (and will continue) our new campaign called ‘Making a real mark’ on what is unique about ISEAL members, from our commitment to independent assurance to how we set our standards through a multi-stakeholder model, to the ways we are already innovating and collaborating to reach scale. 

Deepening and broadening our partnerships in China

ISEAL has worked in China for several years but 2016 saw us having a full time presence there and scaling up our strategic partnerships in the country.  Whether it was leading one of our popular Salons, or guiding local practitioners in training on monitoring and evaluation, or speaking in events on green finance or other topics, we built awareness on how Chinese companies could adopt voluntary standards to enhance their reputations and competitiveness, among other benefits.

Engaging more deeply with researchers

This last year we began to really connect with the research community in ways we never had before, from forging a few key partnerships to delivering a comprehensive research webinar series, to attending several research events.  We also created a research ‘hub’ on our web site to share all the ways researchers focused on sustainability standards can get involved with the ISEAL community and with each other.

Living wage benchmarks show wage gaps and begin to get integrated into standards’ criteria

The Global Living Wage Coalition, made up of six standards systems and ISEAL, completed many living wage benchmarks this year and began the important work of communicating about wage gaps in the key supplier regions and countries where coalition members are working.  The standards organisations also began the important work of integrating living wage criteria into their standards’ content.  Many new partners were also engaged in the work, and local experts were trained in the state-of-the-art methodology used for calculating benchmarks.

Watch a webinar on our new strategy to 2020 and plans for 2017 here.