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A Snapshot of the ISEAL Impacts Code

Impacts Code & Good PracƟce ISEAL helps standards demonstrate and improve their impacts as tools for sustainable development The ISEAL Alliance is the global associa on for sustainability standards, with a membership that encompasses sectors such as agriculture, fisheries, forestry, mining and many more. ISEAL develops guidance and facilitates collabora on to promote best prac ce and to improve ISEAL members’ credibility and effec veness. The Code of Good Prac ce for Assessing the Impacts of Social and Environmental Standards Systems (Impacts Code) was launched in December 2010 and is ISEAL’s second Code. ISEAL members are required to comply with all of ISEAL’s Codes: the Standard-Se ng Code, the Impacts Code and the recently launched Assurance Code.

Why an Impacts Code? ISEAL members are growing increasingly aware of the importance of showing the difference their standard is making and the posi ve change to which it is contribu ng. Businesses, governments and other stakeholders expect standards to be able to demonstrate their results and impacts. Being able to support sustainability claims with evidence is an important marker of credibility. The Impacts Code requires standard-se ng organisa ons to adopt a systema c approach to tracking and analysing their performance and impacts by developing a monitoring and evalua on (M&E) system. The code lays out the key elements of an effec ve M&E system and offers guidance and a structured approach for pu ng the system in place. Compliance with the code pushes sustainability standards to reflect on their goals and ensure that their strategies for achieving them are effec ve.

Benefits of Complying with the Code

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Increased results-orienta on

Credibility to donors, companies, civil society, producers and other supporters of standards

Greater openness and transparency

opening markets, etc) and the short and medium term outcomes that they expect to see as a direct result of those strategies (e.g. farmers prac cing new techniques).

Monitoring and EvaluaƟon

Organisa onal learning and improvement Effec veness in achieving sustainability objec ves and demonstra ng impacts

What Does the Impacts Code Require? The Impacts Code requires standard-seƫng organisaƟons to have an M&E system that serves both internal learning and informaƟon needs and the external demand for evidence of performance and impact

Defining the Intended Change The basis of any M&E system is a clear statement of objec ves and goals. The Impacts Code requires organisa ons to be explicit about what they are trying to achieve and how change is intended to occur as a result of their standard and other work. Organisa ons need to iden fy the long-term impacts to which their system expects to contribute and the social, environmental and economic issues (e.g. labour rights, biodiversity conserva on, etc) where posi ve or nega ve impact is likely to occur. They must also iden fy their strategies for achieving their sustainability goals (e.g. delivering training,

To comply with the Impacts Code, organisa ons must define monitoring indicators and track them on an on-going basis. These monitoring indicators should reflect the outcomes the sustainability standard expects to achieve in the short and medium term. O en the indicators can be measured with informa on the organisa on is already collec ng. In some cases, new data collec on will be necessary. Standards must regularly compile and assess the findings generated through this monitoring process and feed what they learn into their planning and standards review processes. The Impacts Code recognises that organisa ons might not be able to monitor every indicator of interest when they first implement an M&E system. The code offers some flexibility in terms of what to monitor at the start (e.g. only certain dimensions of sustainability or the performance of certain strategies), allowing standards to expand their M&E systems over me. In addi on to the on-going monitoring, standards also need to conduct, commission, or otherwise undergo periodic outcome and impact evalua ons to test whether their systems are contribu ng to the longer term change they seek. These evalua ons require in-depth analysis, as they are designed to answer specific ques ons and to determine whether observed change can be a ributed to the work of the standards system. Organisa ons must make evalua on results public and solicit and encourage scru ny of the findings.

ConƟnual Learning and Improvement

AddiƟonal Requirements

Monitoring and evalua on should have profound influence across the whole standards system, serving as an important driver of organisa onal learning and development. The code requires managers to ensure that evalua on results are shared within the organisa on and that they inform the improvement of both the standard itself and the strategies used to increase uptake. M&E should also influence the logic underlying the organisa on’s approach to achieving sustainability impacts.

Publicly disclose informa on about the M&E system, including goals, intended impacts and indicators

Formally consult with and engage stakeholders in the design of the M&E system

Specify roles and responsibili es and iden fy human and financial resources to cover the costs of M&E

The Road to Compliance with the Impacts Code Compliance with the ISEAL Impacts Code is an integral part of becoming an ISEAL member. It is also a learning journey with efforts and commitments along the way. Because building an M&E system takes me, organisa ons that were ISEAL members prior to the formal adop on of the Impacts Code were granted three years to come into compliance. These ISEAL members will be evaluated for compliance with the code in 2014. All other organisa ons pursue the following path to code compliance: To become an ISEAL associate member, standard-se ng organisa ons must signal their willingness and readiness to implement the code. To do this they must define the scope of their M&E systems and their long-term sustainability goals. They must also show that they have the needed human and financial resources to get started and must define a meline and pathway for reaching full compliance within two years. To transi on from associate membership to full membership one year later, an organisa on must show that it has made the expected progress towards building its M&E system and that it will be in full compliance within one addi onal year. At the end of that year, the organisa on is reviewed for full compliance by ISEAL’s Independent Evalua on Mechanism.

Support from ISEAL ISEAL helps standard-se ng organisa ons interested in becoming ISEAL members understand the importance, the elements and the ini al requirements of the Impacts Code. ISEAL also offers periodic training for standard se ers working towards compliance with the code. For members, ISEAL offers a learning pla orm with resources that can help organisa ons to develop and implement M&E systems in an effec ve and meaningful way, as well as an online Impacts community – a space for knowledge sharing about M&E topics between member organisa ons. The ISEAL Secretariat also provides members with informal tailored guidance and shares lessons learned by other ISEAL members in their efforts to develop M&E systems. Another added value of becoming a member is the chance to join the ISEAL-led collabora ve learning processes and projects, with ac vi es designed to help members strengthen their M&E systems and demonstrate their impacts. For full informa on about the ISEAL Impacts Code, its content and requirements and the road to compliance, visit:, where the full Impacts Code is also available for download. For ques ons related to the Impacts Code or membership, please email us at

ISEAL’s mission is to define good practices or standards systems, to distinguish and promote credible standards and to ensure that people understand the difference.

ISEAL Alliance The Wenlock Centre 50-52 Wharf Road London N1 7EU United Kingdom Tel: +44 (0)20 3246 0066 Fax: +44 (0)20 3176 0950

Version 1.0 | January 2013

Snapshot of the ISEAL Impacts Code  

Here is a brief four page summary of the important concepts found in the full ISEAL Impacts Code.

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