Most sustainability standards are benchmarked in one way or another. This means they are assessed, compared and potentially recognised as meeting a certain level of performance. These benchmarks are particularly influential when public policies rely on them to identify responsible and sustainable business practices.
In response to their growing significance, ISEAL has conducted a public consultation to gather expertise from a wide range of perspectives to inform a set of good practices. This guidance aims to support greater transparency, rigour and consistency in the implementation of benchmarking programmes and exercises.
Bringing credibility and consistency to benchmarking
Benchmarking initiatives define a specific reference point and carry out evaluations of sustainability policies, standards, and tools against it. In this way, benchmarks provide users with comparable information about the benchmarked entities.
The use of sustainability benchmarks is increasing. Governments use them to ‘qualify’ sustainability standards for use in public procurement, subsidy allocation or trade policies; companies and industry platforms use them to identify which standards or sustainability tools are appropriate for their production needs; in finance they are used as part of ESG investment policies; and NGOs use them to rank the suitability of standards or the sustainability performance of companies.
Sustainability benchmarks thus not only provide information, they also create market incentives and signals. However, the design, process and methodology behind benchmarking results often vary considerably.
As benchmarking increases, questions of quality, consistency and credibility need to be addressed. And with new sustainability tools and approaches adding diversity to the landscape, this invites questions about how benchmarks should assess and compare not just standards, but the diversity of sustainability initiatives. ISEAL’s benchmarking guidance aims to tackle some of these complex challenges.
The consultation on our draft guidance ran from 1 March - 15 May 2019. The final guidance will be published in June, 2019. Contact us at email@example.com for more information