Looking back on key achievements of the Innovations Fund

To remain effective in the face of a fast-evolving landscape of emerging legislation and stronger calls for sustainability action, sustainability systems need to push boundaries. The second phase of the ISEAL Innovations Fund kickstarted last year to unlock the potential of new innovative partnerships, approaches and solutions that can operate at scale. 

New technical solutions could make it easier to monitor sustainability performance or improve access to data for smallholders. New partnerships could bring together the resources, connections and expertise to scale up an intervention for long-lasting change. Innovation is needed to strengthen the role of sustainability systems in addressing some of the world's most pressing challenges.

With renewed support from our principal donor, the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs SECO, the Innovations Fund is continuing to catalyse and support the ISEAL membership and wider sustainability systems community to innovate and become more effective in driving large-scale change and impact.

Looking back: a pipeline of changemakers

Innovation requires strong partnerships and collaborative efforts with a wide range of stakeholders – including governments, civil society, companies and producers - to collectively address these challenges and test new or improved solutions. Recognising this, all projects are led by ISEAL members in collaboration with other partners consisting of private sector organisations and sustainability systems.    

We have launched four funding rounds, with each focusing on a different theme to provide an opportunity for collaborative action on some of the most critical sustainability challenges the world faces today. From these, we now have 13 projects piloting new innovative approaches across diverse geographical locations, sectors and sustainability challenges. More than half of projects have a global focus and are testing innovations that are applicable to multiple countries. And the remaining projects are piloting innovations in Asia, Africa and South America. 

These funding rounds are supporting sustainability systems and their partners to find solutions in the following areas: to overcome core organisational challenges and needs, build on the lessons from previous Fund projects to address a sustainability issue, respond to emerging due diligence requirements, tackle climate change and address social issues.  

For example, from the due diligence funding round, one project is building the capacity of key local stakeholders to better respond to human rights risks in the agricultural sector by piloting gamified training modules. Whereas from the climate change funding round, another project is testing innovative approaches on how their sustainability standard can be used to better support food businesses with their ambitious Scope 3 emissions reduction targets. 

We currently have an open funding round to identify and support projects in exploring how sustainability systems can address social issues. For example, this can include exploring the role of sustainability systems in tackling labour rights, gender equality, the rights of indigenous peoples, or empowering the voice of workers and marginalised communities. 

Looking forwards

Our current projects have just started on their innovation journey and there is still much to learn. Looking ahead, we will grow this portfolio to catalyse and support new and improved innovations that address other pressing sustainability challenges. Our focus will be on capturing, learning and sharing key lessons and insights emerging from this work with the broader sustainability system community and beyond. 

By learning what works and what doesn’t work, we hope to be able to support our membership and the wider sustainability systems community to improve their effectiveness. Making them better placed to meet evolving stakeholder expectations and helping them deliver against the most pressing sustainability challenges of our time.