Breaking through barriers in communicating the impact of sustainability standards

Businesses with ambitious sustainability commitments need to create compelling, evidence-based communication that demonstrates the results of their sourcing decision. 

Whether they use voluntary sustainability standards or other sourcing solutions, these companies need to translate the available evidence into factual and assessible statements that communicate commitment claims to a variety of audiences. This can be challenging for a variety of reasons. Breaking through barriers in communicating the impact of sustainability standards was the aim of the Value and Impacts Analysis (VIA) pilot.

The VIA pilot was a two-and-a-half-year partnership initiative funded by major industry players in the forest products value chain (Tetra Pak, IKEA, Kingfisher, SCA, Essity and Precious Woods) and the Sustainable Trade Initiative.  ISEAL Alliance coordinated the initiative. VIA’s objectives were to break ground in new methods for interpreting and communicating the existing evidence on the performance and impacts of FSC and improve practices going forward. 

VIA embraced a collaborative approach and demonstrated the power of convening experts (practitioners, researchers, and businesses executives), by gaining perspectives from multiple stakeholders, devising approaches for making sense of the standing evidence and identifying ways to improve how FSC and other standard systems can generate evidence in the future.

Application of VIA’s broad stakeholder consensus approach generated evidence-based messaging about the on the ground effects of FSC as well as recommended methods for information synthesis, data analysis and collection that can enhance communication about the performance and impacts of voluntary sustainability standards. 

The results of VIA are now available on the right, consisting of three documents. The first is a high-level, business focused summary of the VIA Model and how it can support businesses in credibly assessing and communicating the performance and impacts of sustainability standards. The appendix details the principal outputs from VIA, including the endorsement procedure and associated templates applied in approving VIA outputs. Finally, we provide two VIA spotlight pages, one which highlights the language guidelines and the other emphasizes the value of the endorsement approach developed and used for the pilot.