Standard-Setting Code

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Coffee in Guatemala © UTZ Certified
The ISEAL Code of Good Practice for Setting Social and Environmental Standards defines effective standard-setting processes, thereby increasing the credibility of the resulting standard.

The Standard-Setting Code applies to all standards that aim to have positive social or environmental impacts. It focuses on the standards development process, as well as on the structure and content of the standard. It captures the good practices that should be followed in standards development for any sector or product to ensure the standard is credible, effective and achieves its objectives.

The Standard-Setting Code is ISEAL's most widely recognised document and has been referenced and used by a variety of institutions including the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), World Bank, UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and WWF.

Newly Revised in December 2014

The Code was released in 2004 and was updated in 2010 and again in 2014. ISEAL completed the latest revision of the Standard-Setting Code between November 2013 and August 2014. Version 6 of the Standard-Setting Code was approved by the ISEAL Board in December 2014 and published on this site in February 2015.  Click here to find out more about the revision process and consultation.

Take a look inside

Download the Standard-Setting Code

About the Code

ISEAL associate members must meet the baseline criteria of the Standard-Setting Code, while full members must successfully pass through an independent evaluation to show compliance with the improvement criteria in the Standard-Setting Code. For more information about the pathway to membership, click here. The Code is also valuable to organisations outside of ISEAL membership that want to use it as guidance for developing their systems.

The criteria of the Code and the practices it promotes are underpinned by the ISEAL Credibility Principles, such as relevance, engagement and transparency. The Code covers critical issues that organisations must consider when developing a standard. Some requirements relate to the standards development process, such as clearly defining objectives and intended outcomes, involving interested and affected stakeholders, and regularly reviewing the standard. Other requirements relate to the structure and content of the standard, such as ensuring that the standard addresses important sustainability challenges, balancing global consistency and local applicability, and harmonising with other standards systems where possible.

For more information

For more information about the Standard-Setting Code, please contact ISEAL's Associate Manager, Innovations, Rosie Forsyth at, or sign up to our Standard-Setting mailing list.

“The most valuable contributions of ISEAL membership for us this year were several aspects of the Standard-Setting Code relating to transparency and timelines. For example, some of the things we are asking of our International Standards Committee have been substantiated and accepted because of their roots in ISEAL requirements.”

-- Alliance for Water Stewardship

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Download the latest version of the ISEAL Code of Good Practice for Setting Social and Environmental Standards.