Good practice in claims and labelling

ISEAL's new Challenge the Label tool:
ISEAL's new Challenge the Label tool:
ISEAL is a leader in defining the essential characteristics of credible sustainability claims. With tools for both standards systems and businesses, ISEAL is bringing clarity to the landscape and promoting the growth of credible claims and labels globally.

Sustainability claims are intended to provide valuable information about the social, environmental and economic attributes of a product or service. They can take the form of a logo, ecolabel, message or other sustainability ‘mark’ and they are a major factor in the purchasing decisions of not only consumers, but also brands, retailers and governments that are trying to act responsibly.  

ISEAL’s goal is to encourage truthfulness in claims and labelling and drive people towards claims and labels that more likely to deliver real sustainability impact. Our work involves providing guidance to sustainability standards about the good practices they should follow so that accurate claims about certified products can be made. The other side involves educating ‘users’ of standards, primarily businesses, who are choosing between different claims and labels so that they can more confidently navigate the complexity and make informed sourcing decisions.

Challenge the Label Tool

Visit the Challenge the Label website here

The decision to use a particular sustainability standard and label should not be taken lightly, but oftentimes these decisions are based on poor or incomplete understandings of what different sustainability claims mean. ISEAL’s ‘Challenge the Label’ tool aims to equip the business community with knowledge and a framework for better assessing credibility because with a stronger approach, the prevalence of false or misleading claims should be reduced. 

The tool applies to all sustainability claims - not just those based on standards and certification – and is freely available here. In the tool is a series of questions that buyers should ask to get a full picture of a claim’s veracity and to reveal elements that might not be evident at first glance. Important differences between claims include whether the claim was self-awarded or given via an independent verification process, and whether the claim refers to the achievement of certain performance criteria as opposed to other types of claims such as corporate donations and reporting.

The heart of the tool is a set of five universal truths that all sustainability claims should meet: the claim should be clear, accurate and relevant, and be based on a system that is transparent and robust. For instance, businesses should expect to find easily accessible evidence that substantiates a claim. They should also be aware of the major sustainability hotspots in their product or sector so that they can identify when a cleverly designed label actually offers little substantive value. 

Good Practice Guide

ISEAL has developed a separate Sustainability Claims Good Practice Guide for its members and all sustainability standards systems to improve how they develop and manage their claims to ensure credibility. This complements the Challenge the Label tool because it encourages consistency across standards systems in how they operate and it focuses their attention on steps they can take to improve the accuracy, transparency and rigour of their claims.

The guide was developed over 18 months of consultation led by an expert multi-stakeholder committee and is a partner document to ISEAL’s Codes on standard-setting, impacts and assurance, although it is not a membership requirement. The guide is not prescriptive about the rules the scheme owners set, but instead it provides a blueprint for setting clear rules and processes that govern the use of claims. Among other sections, the guide covers the language that is permitted on a claim, the instances in which a logo can be used and the penalties for misusing a claim.

Sustainability claims need to be as robust as all of the other components of a standards system, and so the guide helps ISEAL members to adopt good practices in claims and labelling that reinforce the integrity of the standards system.

Read the guide below or download a copy here

ISEAL has also created additional claims guidance related to chain of custody models and definitions.

For more information

  • Sign up to our Claims and Labelling mailing list to receive updates
  • Watch this webinar for an overview of the Good Practice Guide (note: this webinar took place during the consultation, so some aspects might have changed in the final guide)
  • Read more about the consultation process to develop the guidance
  • Email ISEAL's Director of Innovations at 

Related information and resources

Accreditation bodies call on ethical consumers to look ‘beyond the badge’

Social Enterprise Mark CIC has partnered with several well-respected standard setting and accreditation bodies to encourage consumers to challenge ethical labels and sustainability claims that are used by brands they buy from.

ISEAL Guidance: Chain of custody models and definitions

This guidance developed by ISEAL on Chain of Custody (CoC) System is a reference document for sustainability standards systems that complements ISEAL’s Sustainability Claims Good Practice Guide.

New research shows independent labeling increases brand trust

A new consumer survey done on behalf of MSC shows that more than 60% of consumers agree that certifications raise their confidence in a brand.

Content Claim Standard and Organic Content Standard Stakeholder Review Opens

The CCS v2 and OCS v2 Stakeholder Review period is officially open. We are asking any interested parties to take time to review the revised draft of the standard, in order to provide feedback. The revised standard is a result of the work of the International Working Group. We are very grateful for their contribution of time and expertise into making this the strongest possible standard.

Claims and Labelling Resources

This overview presents a selection of ISEAL- and external resources which address credible sustainability claims, labelling practices and systems.

Unlocking Sustainability Claims: ISEAL's two new tools (ISEAL Webinar)

This webinar took place on 23 June and presented the work that ISEAL is doing to drive understanding of credible claims and labelling.

ISEAL Sustainability Claims Good Practice Guide

There are a myriad of 'sustainability claims' in the market today. The Good Practice Guide was developed through a multi-stakeholder consultation process to define good practice for scheme owners in setting and managing claims about their standards system. The effective management of claims is a key part of the overall credibility of a standard system.

ISEAL Good Practices v1 April 2015

This list of criteria represents a summary of core practices that a sustainability standards system should have in place in order to be considered credible.

A key to unlocking sustainability labels

Navigating the jungle of sustainability claims and labels in the marketplace is a hard job. But a first important step is to simply know what type of label you are looking at. Responsible businesses ask basic questions of their sustainability partners first, before choosing or developing an ethical claim.

Claims Good Practice Guide: Summary of first consultation and responses

This document presents a summary of the comments for each section and for the Guide as a whole, and how they were handled in the revised draft document – v0.2. In general the comments showed that the first draft was very well received and it fills a need for standards systems.