Driving Enterprise Sustainability: The Role of Voluntary Standards in Incentivizing Improvement

A large number of enterprises in different sectors have now adopted voluntary sustainability standards. Price premiums and market access have been important initial attractions, but how can businesses be encouraged continue to make sustainability improvements? In a study for the ISEAL Alliance, a membership organization of voluntary sustainability standards, Aidenvironment recommends how best to promote a range of incentives.

The study investigated how sustainability standards systems can better incentivize enterprises to continue to improve their sustainability. How can they promote performance tools that help enterprises to learn and make such improvements? And what can be learned from other contexts to inform new possibilities for sustainability standards systems?

Aidenvironment has extensive knowledge and experience of sustainability standard systems, responsible sourcing strategies, monitoring and evaluation, and producer support programs, and a network of supply chain practitioners. David Short and Jan Willem Molenaar carried out desk research and conducted interviews to evaluate the current landscape of incentives and performance tools in relation to their relevance for sustainability standards systems. They gained key insights and made recommendations on new ways that could promote sustainability improvements.

Aidenvironment advised that standards systems should emphasize performance and social dynamics across different incentive mechanisms (e.g. market, regulatory, access to services, and soft incentives) in their programs, and promote such dynamics with other key stakeholders where possible. Regarding performance tools, the team advised that standards systems should focus on tools that are fit for purpose, facilitate relevant insights for the enterprise, and concentrate on the user experience.

This study was commissioned by the ISEAL Alliance, a membership organization of voluntary sustainability standards, as part of their Innovations program. The study was well received by ISEAL members when presented by Aidenvironment at an event in fall 2016.

As a thought leader in the field of sustainability standards, Aidenvironment is actively envisioning new possibilities for standards to have impact across sectors. For more information about the ISEAL Innovations program, please see:

For more information, please contact David Short.