Impact and improvement: have your say

ISEAL’s revised Code of Good Practice aims to support sustainability systems to achieve the impact they want – and we want to hear what you think.

The credibility of sustainability systems, ultimately, rests on driving impact. Ensuring positive differences are made on the issues that matter is foundational to a scheme’s strategy and across all its activities such as assurance, data management, and monitoring, evaluation and learning.

ISEAL developed the first version of the ‘Code of Good Practice for Assessing the Impacts of Social and Environmental Standards Systems’ back in 2010. Together with our Codes on Assurance and Standard-Setting, the Impacts Code has become a global benchmark for credible and effective sustainability standards and related systems.

Now, we’re revising and integrating these requirements into a single Code of Good Practice. Reflecting the latest developments in the sustainability landscape as well as our recently updated Credibility Principles, the revised Code is more robust, efficient, and fit for the future. And impacts remain front and centre.

As part of our ongoing consultation on the draft Code, we recently held a webinar focusing on the impact components – specifically the chapters devoted to strategies for impact (including theory of change), and monitoring, evaluation and learning (MEL). It was a chance to discuss the changes in the draft Code and the background behind them, and to receive feedback from stakeholders.

To comply with the revised Code, schemes must have a clear focus and strategies to drive sustainability outcomes and impacts. This is achieved by clearly defining the sustainability impacts they aim to achieve, obtaining input from stakeholders, and using this to inform decision making. The theory of change needs to be clearly communicated to partners, to the public and to staff, and there should be procedures in place to ensure it remains relevant.

But the defined strategies also need to work in practice – so another key area is having an effective MEL system to assess the performance of the scheme and its clients over time, and to drive continuous improvement. The impact strategy should guide the questions that the MEL system addresses, and in turn the learning should shape the strategy. Performance monitoring needs to be integrated into daily operations to provide high-quality information.

While the revised Code contains specific chapters and requirements on impact strategies and MEL, these shouldn’t be seen as standalone elements – they should inform, and be informed by, every aspect of a sustainability system. Part of the reason we’ve created an integrated Code is to encourage this more holistic approach.

If you missed the webinar, it’s not too late to catch up – you can watch the recording here

We’re collecting feedback on the draft Code of Good Practice until 16 December. We’d love to hear your thoughts on how it addresses impacts or any other areas of system practice – please do visit our consultation page to have your say.