Frequently Asked Questions
How does the creation of SustainCERT support Gold Standard’s vision and mission?
Gold Standard’s vision is ‘climate security and sustainable development for all;’ our mission is ‘to catalyse more ambitious climate action to achieve the Global Goals through robust standards and verified impacts.’ We believe that to catalyse the transformational change needed to make our vision and mission a reality, impact quantification and certification must become mainstream. SustainCERT is designed to bring Gold Standard for the Global Goals to market, powered by technology solutions that democratise impact certification for mass adoption.
How will this add value to the certification process?
This new model will enable more efficient, customisable, and user-centric Gold Standard impact quantification and certification, powered by an organisation with the necessary governance and credentials to engage with the most influential actors in climate and development.
>>Lower costs and complexity and greater value delivered from technology innovations
Gold Standard and SustainCERT share a common goal to be fully digitised by the end of 2020. This new technology infrastructure is expected to lower the barriers to entry by driving down costs and complexity from project origination to certification, thereby increasing the value of impact per dollar invested – for both project developers and funders. First examples of these technology innovations:
o A new online application to help project developers more easily manage certification reviews
o SDG tools to help project developers establish and monitor the development impacts of their projects – in development with the UNFCCC and UN SDSN
o Shared Value Calculation that allows projects to report on the economic value delivered as a result of their climate and development contributions
>>Access to new certification solutions and markets
SustainCERT will provide seamless access to the new certification solutions available through Gold Standard for the Global Goals – such as impacts toward gender equality or water security – which can help project developers distinguish their projects in carbon markets and also tap into new sources of funding for their development benefits.
>>Leadership and connection among standards
Gold Standard is set to be the first impact-based ISEAL standard. This will differentiate us among standards in carbon markets and allow us to more easily share our impact quantification and certification approach with other ISEAL members.
How will this affect costs or the complexity of certification? Will the process or my focal point change?
Project developers and auditors can expect that certification processes, fees and personnel will remain the same for 2018. Over time, new points of contact may be introduced. Certification fees and project review fees will be invoiced by SustainCERT as per the existing Gold Standard fee schedule, starting 1 November 2018. A full delineation of fees will be provided to reflect the division of work between Gold Standard and SustainCERT but the overall level of fees and the timing of fees will not change. New technology integration into the certification process is expected to reduce complexity on the part of project developers and funders and potentially lower the total costs of certification over time.
What are the specific ISEAL principles that informed this change?
ISEAL’s Credibility Principles and Codes of Good Practice provides guidelines on the following aspects of standards setting and operation:
- Standards Setting – the systems for setting, managing, reviewing and updating standards. Primary focus is on transparency, decision making and participation (internal and external), as well as quality assurance criteria.
- Assurance – the systems that govern how compliance with and certification against the standard take place and how decisions are made. The focus is on consistency, transparency, impartiality and rigour.
- Oversight – the systems that govern the approach to and performance of assurance. The focus is on impartiality, competence and performance management.
- Impact – the systems that govern how the standards system defines the impact it seeks to achieve and then measures, monitors and reports against it.
Gold Standard has historically led both standards setting and assurance within one organisation, with oversight processes to ensure impartiality and consistency. While ISEAL does not dictate how to set up these various functions, it does require that the functions be delivered by separate bodies to the greatest extent possible.
Specifically, ISEAL's best practices for Assurance, Clause 5.4.2 on the ‘Independence of oversight’ specifies that ‘The scheme owner shall ensure that the oversight body is independent of the assurance provider(s) being assessed,’ and further notes that this has meant that the oversight body is usually a separate organisation from the assurance provider.
The creation of SustainCERT as the independent Assurance provider that takes certification decisions against that standards that Gold Standard maintains ensures clearer impartiality and oversight to best respond to ISEAL Codes of Good Practice. SustainCERT will undergo surveillance and performance management against its processes, impartiality and consistency as well as its suitability to meet Gold Standard competence requirements. This structure also provides greater flexibility to allow fit-for-purpose certification approaches for the broad range of impact certification that is possible under Gold Standard for the Global Goals.
Will SustainCERT carry out third party audits for carbon credit projects? Will it provide consulting services to corporates?
Gold Standard’s objective is to fully digitise the certification process and build further credibility through ISEAL membership. SustainCERT will NOT provide third party audit services for carbon credit issuances. Gold Standard will continue to rely on approved VVBs for carbon audits and will continue to manage the VVB accreditation framework. SustainCERT will become accredited to carry out third party audits for Gold Standard for the Global Goals but will focus audit services on micro-scale projects (as is currently the case) and other selected cases outside the issuance of carbon credits. Likewise, SustainCERT will NOT provide consulting services to corporates or investors seeking to deliver impact toward the SDGs, but rather will enable the certification of those impacts.
How do other standards handle the certification against their requirements?
Different standards systems conform to the ISEAL codes in different ways to suit their unique circumstances. Many of the most well-known ISEAL members, including Fairtrade and Rainforest Alliance, have established separate entities to manage certification. In addition to adopting a standard approach to ensuring impartiality and consistency of the certification process, the diversity of activity types and certification pathways for a broad range of impacts requires greater expertise than is needed in a single existing certification body. As a pioneering organisation with a remit to create new pathways for certification to accelerate progress to 'climate security and sustainable development for all,' Gold Standard requires a partner like SustainCERT that is mandated to support and promote these new models and to engage fully in the Gold Standard vision and mission.