Performance metrics for key sustainability issues

The importance of reliable data to help monitor and report outcomes and impacts has become a key topic in the field of voluntary sustainability standards in the recent years. Traditionally, impact studies have been designed to demonstrate the reach of the standard as well as the compliance to specific criteria, mainly at the level of certified site. As businesses in particular evolve their public policy commitments and seek to ensure that standards are providing the benefits they require in a cost-effective way, the demands for good outcome data increase.

Cool Farm Alliance member 3Keel has been commissioned by the ISEAL Alliance, the global membership association for credible sustainability standards, to review different metrics for monitoring sustainability performance, focusing on six critical sustainability issues: greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation, water use, biodiversity, poverty and forced labour. The goal was to identify the different types of metric available – from those that require in-field data collection such as species counts, to those based on modelling – and to evaluate the various metrics and data sources in terms of their applicability; the degree to which they are underpinned by evidence and address material impacts; their context-sensitivity; and the practicality of the associated data collection and analysis.

This report is intended to support standard systems and other sustainability initiatives to move towards more data-driven outcome claims, whilst providing insight into the process of considering and understanding the suitability of certain metrics. It focuses on the applicability of various metrics and data sources, best practices, and limitations and trade-offs associated with their use.

The full paper can be found here.