Sustainability standards embrace GIS technology

The exponential growth in the use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) for sustainability is not surprising. It is a technology that becomes more powerful the more people use it, and it offers the sustainability community a straightforward and universal platform to come together and build on each other’s work.

GIS is not new to sustainability standards. They have been exploring the integrative power of this technology for some time. The Rainforest Alliance, for instance, has built an interactive map that shows all sites currently certified by the scheme. And the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) built a map for certified smallholders in Indonesia.

These individual efforts have shown that GIS can help standards assess the performance and impact of certification by combining their own data sets with other layers of data related to deforestation, water scarcity, education, etc. This is powerful – it paints a clearer picture of the reality on the ground and enables standards to deliver a tailored approach to compliance and capacity building. Such an approach benefits all actors in the supply chain, especially because it can make certification more accessible for smallholders – a top priority for ISEAL members.    

The Global Living Wage Coalition and the Integrated Pest Management Coalition are two clear examples of the strong culture of collaboration within the ISEAL Alliance. And GIS is no exception.

Since September 2017, with support from GIZ and in collaboration with Global Forest Watch and the Rainforest Alliance, ISEAL members are rapidly building their capacity to use geospatial data. In the coming months, they will propose a joint strategy for the creation of a Certification Atlas, a single data layer showing the location of certified operations around the world.

At the same time, a group of ISEAL members have received a grant from the ISEAL Innovations Fund to build the skills of auditors to use GIS tools for sustainability auditing. The outcomes of the project will be a manual and an online platform for a community of auditors with e-learning assets and a forum to share experiences in applying GIS tools for sustainability auditing. If you are an auditor for a sustainability standard, do please help us understand your current use of GIS tools by completing this quick survey.

If you’re interested in the potential of GIS to make audits more effective and efficient and strengthen the evidence base for certification decisions, you’re in luck. We have planned a masterclass on the topic during the Global Sustainability Standards Conference in Sao Paulo on 23 May.

Join Alicia Bustillos, Project Officer at Accreditation Services International (ASI), at the GIS masterclass: the power of mapping during the upcoming Global Sustainability Standards Conference in Sao Paulo. We will explore how GIS tools are currently used by auditors, at what stages of an audit GIS can provide value, and show how a customised GIS platform can help detect illegal practices.