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The ISEAL Alliance is the global membership association for sustainability standards, whose mission is to strengthen sustainability standards systems for the benefit of people and the environment. Its members are operating in a range of sectors, including fishing, forestry, agriculture, mining, textiles, biofuels and tourism, to promote better practices through the voluntary, market-based approach of certification. Ecolabelling is a growing trend in global supply chains, and ISEAL is one of the NGOs working to drive the penetration of sustainability standards and certification into key industries, while at the same time defining what it means to be credible. ISEAL's Codes of Good Practice - most notably the Standard-Setting Code - are one of the main international reference points for the sustainability standards movement. ISEAL encourages businesses and governments to incorporate certification into their sourcing or policies and use standards as a means to accomplish their sustainability goals. Membership in ISEAL can be an important distinguishing factor for certification programmes aiming to demonstrate their credibility to stakeholders. ISEAL also aims to provide a neutral platform in which different standards can collaborate and innovate towards improving their impacts and effectiveness.
The ISEAL Alliance was founded in 2002 by the Marine Stewardship Council, Forest Stewardship Council, FLO International, the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements, Rainforest Alliance, Social Accountability International and the Marine Aquarium Council. The aim was to was to enable collaboration between standards in different sectors and represent common interests to government and other key stakeholders. As the Alliance has grown, the focus has been on mobilising certification initiatives around key credibility practices and scaling up the adoption of standards in key markets, regions and products.
The ISEAL Secretariat is based in London.
ISEAL's Codes and Credibility Principles
The ISEAL Credibility Principles are a set of concepts that should be integral to sustainability certification and ecolabelling in any sector. They were developed and agreed upon in 2013 to drive greater quality and consistency amongst standards and also help buyers, procurers and other users of certification to understand what to look out for. The ten principles are sustainability, improvement, relevance, rigour, engagement, impartiality, transparency, accessibility, truthfulness and efficiency.
ISEAL has three Codes of Good Practice created through international public consultations that describe how a sustainability standard should be developed and implemented. The Standard-Setting Code, ISEAL's seminal document, covers steps in the design of a standard, including engaging diverse stakeholders, ensuring that content is relevant and that putting in place a governance process is robust and transparent. The Impacts Code sets requirements for building a monitoring and evaluation (M&E) system capable of tracking the performance of a standard and enabling improvements to the standard or certification process based on these results. The Assurance Code sets out minimum criteria for making verification procedures - the process through which producers are assessed for compliance with the standard - more efficient, scalable and rigorous. These processes are sometimes referred to as audits or inspections.
ISEAL membership is based primarily on compliance with ISEAL's Codes of Good Practice, demonstrated through an independent evaluation. Members also commit to embracing the Credibility Principles and to working collaboratively with other organisations in ISEAL. There are two categories of membership: associate members meet the baseline criteria of ISEAL's Codes and full members are progressing towards full compliance within a set timeframe. Membership is open to all mission-driven, multi-stakeholder based sustainability standards, as well as the international accreditation bodies that they work with.
Current full members
- 4C Association
- Accreditation Services International
- Equitable Origin
- FLO International
- Forest Stewardship Council
- Marine Stewardship Council
- Responsible Jewellery Council
- Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials
- Social Accountability Accreditation Services
- Rainforest Alliance / Sustainable Agriculture Network
- Union for Ethical BioTrade
- UTZ Certified
Current associate members
- Alliance for Water Stewardship
- Aquaculture Stewardship Council
- Better Cotton Initiative
- Global Sustainable Tourism Council
- Golf Environment Organization
- Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil
- Ecolabelling in Fisheries Management, UN Food and Agriculture Organization
- WWF 2050 Criteria, World Wildlife Fund, 2012
- Realising Nature's Value, UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, 2013
- Betting on Best Quality, IUCN, 2013
- Global Outlook on Sustainable Consumption and Production Policies, UNEP, 2012
- EU best practice guidelines for voluntary certification schemes for agricultural products and foodstuffs, European Commission, 2010
- Towards Sustainability: State of Knowledge Assessment of Standards and Certification, Resolve, 2012
- Politics of Private Regulation: ISEAL and the shaping of transnational sustainability governance, Loconto and Fouilleux, 2014
- [Impacts of International Voluntary Standards on Smallholder Market Participation in Developing Countries, FAO, 2014
- The MSC Experience: Developing an Operational Certification Standard and a Market Incentive to Improve Fishery Sustainability, ICES *Journal of Marine Science, 2014