Credibility Principles

Green Leaf © Shutterstock
Green Leaf © Shutterstock
What's essential for a standards system to deliver positive impact?
At the heart of the ISEAL Alliance is a set of Credibility Principles that represent the core values upon which effective standards are built.

Businesses and governments are increasingly looking for clarity around certification systems.  There are so many different standards and labels in the market and stakeholders wish to know which are credible.  ISEAL’s Credibility Principles were finalised in mid-2013 after a year-long multi-stakeholder consultation on five continents, led by an expert Steering Committee that engaged more than 400 individuals from NGOs, governments, businesses, producer groups, consumer organisations and certification systems.  They represent the concepts and actions that underpin credible standards systems.

Watch the Credibility Principles video

Want more detail? Watch a slidecast that looks at each principle more deeply.


Read the Credibility Principles


You can also download this two-page summary here or the full document

ISEAL’s Credibility Principles are broader than the ISEAL membership and can be used for any standard that assesses sustainability. They are also useful for a company’s own internal codes or standards, and can used alongside benchmarking initiatives to make them more robust and accurate. The development of the principles was overseen by an independent steering committee.

With long-term impact data not yet available in many sectors that standards work in, and due to the time and resources needed for impact assessments, the Credibility Principles represent the values that are embraced by credible standards systems and that are widely understood to be the most likely to achieve positive social, environmental or economic impacts, while decreasing negative impacts. 

The Credibility Principles are also deeply rooted in the ISEAL Codes of Good Practice that provide deeper guidance on good practice as well as a pathway to ISEAL membership for many standards systems.  ISEAL membership is open to any sustainability standard whose practices align with the Credibility Principles. 

ISEAL’s Credibility Principles will also be used for a new online tool that will allow web users to evaluate standards’ performance against their own preferences. This will enable stakeholders to look in a much more nuanced way at the crucial actions that influence the effectiveness and credibility of standards systems.

Use the Credibility Principles

For more information on how to use ISEAL’s Credibility Principles or how they were developed, contact ISEAL's Director of Innovations, Patrick Mallet at


Thank you to the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) for supporting our work on the ISEAL Credibility Principles.

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