The systemic impacts of voluntary sustainability standards

Voluntary sustainability standards have positive impacts that go beyond the direct effects on certified operations, according to new research by Aidenvironment. These “systemic impacts” can address the root causes of unsustainable practices, including capacities, policies, institutions and stakeholder relationships. They help to create an enabling environment for better production and consumption practices and contribute toward the Sustainable Development Goals.

WWF and ISEAL, the backbone of the sustainability standards movement, commissioned us to explore this largely uncharted territory. We found evidence that credible standards have systemic impacts in a number of areas.

For WWF, ISEAL members and other stakeholders, putting more strategic emphasis on targeting and monitoring these systemic impacts is an opportunity to achieve broad and long-lasting benefits for people and nature.

We welcome your comments and insights to further develop the concept of systemic impacts and define its strategic importance for your organization.

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Jan Willem Molenaar
Senior Consultant