Curbing deforestation, reversing the global decline of fisheries stocks, making a real contribution to poverty alleviation or halting climate change: the sustainability challenges we are facing today are many and complex. As market-based tools to link sustainable production and consumption, social and environmental standards are poised to make a significant contribution to addressing these challenges.
If the growth in certified products is any indication, this strategy is working: Wal-Mart has pledged to make a full switch to fisheries certified by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), while the biggest tea company in the world, Unilever, will sell only certified tea in a few years. Voluntary standards have become a real force in driving social and environmental change.
Social and environmental standards systems cover everything from organic agriculture and sustainable forestry to fair trade and labour rights. In recent years, new standards have emerged in sectors as diverse as mining, tourism, water stewardship and biofuels.
Increasing demand and recognition by consumers and governments presents an opportunity to dramatically scale up the impact of standards systems, but there is much to do. As the global hub for social and environmental standards systems and the architect of the first internationally recognized reference on credibility in this field, the ISEAL Alliance is committed to shaping an effective and coordinated voluntary standards movement. Its recently launched Strategic Plan 2009-2013 outlines the key strategies: building a global understanding of credibility, including defining good practice for measuring impacts and verification; scaling up the impacts of standards systems through coordination; and revising ISEAL’s governance structures to ensure greater ownership by key stakeholders in the design of tools and strategy.
ISEAL invites partners and donors to contribute to the expanding role of voluntary standards in achieving social justice and ecological sustainability worldwide.
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