Gold Standard announces plan to launch new company to mainstream SDG impact certification
Gold Standard believes that our vision of ‘climate security and sustainable development for all’ is only possible if credible impact quantification and certification become mainstream. To help drive this transformation, Gold Standard is pursuing two critical initiatives. First, Gold Standard is starting an IT revolution to fully digitise the certification process and dramatically simplify monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV). Second, Gold Standard is seeking full membership in ISEAL, the global association for credible sustainability standards, to strengthen our credentials and gear up to scale. Delivering on these initiatives has prompted a change in our structure. Gold Standard will spin-off its certification services from the standards body into a new company called SustainCERT. This move will afford Gold Standard better access to finance to invest in more efficient, user-centric certification systems. Project developers and validation and verification bodies (VVBs) can expect processes, fees, and personnel to remain the same in 2018 with no disruption in the certification process.
With support from strong partners, Gold Standard has made sustainable development mainstream in voluntary carbon markets. To catalyse the change needed to meet the ambitions of the Paris Climate Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), impact quantification and certification must also become mainstream – from corporate sustainability to impact investing.
Fortunately, demand for sustainable goods and sustainability claims are on the rise. Sixty-six percent of global consumers are ready to pay more for sustainable products; over 350 companies are committed to Science Based Targets for GHG emission reductions; and 83% of impact investors want to better understand the impact of their investments. This signals growing demand for robust, user-centric impact quantification and certification solutions.
Pathways to scale
For Gold Standard to help meet this demand and facilitate a transition to impact certification as business-as-usual, we must 1) dramatically reduce costs and complexities in the monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV) of impact certification through technology solutions, and 2) strengthen our credentials to become the trusted provider for quantifying, certifying and maximising impact toward the SDGs through full membership to ISEAL, the global association for credible sustainability standards.
An overhaul of the MRV process for mass adoption requires significant investments in next-generation technology infrastructure and integration, which requires access to capital markets. As an NGO, Gold Standard is limited to grant funding and cannot raise the necessary capital in this way.
>>Full ISEAL membership
Gold Standard became an ISEAL subscriber in 2016 and developed Gold Standard for the Global Goals in line with ISEAL requirements. In preparing for full ISEAL membership, Gold Standard has undergone a rigorous assessment of our own processes and governance against ISEAL’s Credibility Principles and Codes of Good Practice, a global benchmark for standards setting, assurance and oversight, with a goal of improving certification for greater quality, efficiency and transparency.
A mission-driven company to systematise and democratise impact certification
To unlock a game-changing technology revolution and to best respond to ISEAL requirements for independent and impartial certification, Gold Standard is separating its certification team from the standards body into a new entity called SustainCERT.
SustainCERT is a mission-driven company that will manage certification against Gold Standard for the Global Goals and promote adoption and scaling of credible impact certification.
Gold Standard certification decisions and project reviews will be under the full purview of SustainCERT, independent from the standard, to best deliver the impartiality that ISEAL requires. This follows a common structure of other ISEAL standards such as Fairtrade, FSC and Rainforest Alliance. Gold Standard will focus its activities on standards management and oversight, including accreditation, training and performance management of auditors. Gold Standard will hold a majority stake in SustainCERT, with additional investments secured from mission-driven investors including the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) and Climate-KIC.
“We’ve invested in SustainCERT because it will provide a much-needed solution to the rising demand for credible and user-friendly impact certification. Gold Standard’s approach to rigour, powered by a technology solution that can dramatically reduce costs, will substantially increase the attractiveness and applicability of impact certification.”
--Thomas Vellacott, CEO, WWF Switzerland
To ensure continuity, the Gold Standard CEO and management team will oversee day to day operations of SustainCERT through early 2019, at which time a dedicated management team will be appointed. Gold Standard COO, Lisa Rosen, is seconded to SustainCERT as interim CEO, effective immediately. As interim CEO, Lisa will oversee the seamless transition of the certification activities from Gold Standard to SustainCERT. The Gold Standard Board of Directors is overseeing the composition of SustainCERT’s governance. The Gold Standard Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) will remain in place and will retain the same role, including technical oversight for standards setting, defining assurance (the systems that govern certification against the standard), and the performance of these assurance systems.
Benefits and opportunities for Gold Standard stakeholders
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:
A new online booking system for certification reviews to be launched in April
SDG tools to help project developers establish and monitor the development impacts of their projects – in development with the UNFCCC and UN SDSN
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. These new certification solutions also provide validation and verification bodies (VVBs) with new business opportunities.
>>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.
SustainCERT’s primary objective is to make the certification process as efficient and independent as possible. Gold Standard will oversee the quality of SustainCERT’s work 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 focusing on micro-scale projects (as is currently done by Objective Observers) and other selected cases outside the issuance of carbon credits. SustainCERT will NOT provide third party audit services for carbon credit issuances; it will continue to rely on approved VVBs opinions for carbon credit issuances. SustainCERT will NOT provide consulting services to corporates or investors seeking to deliver impact toward the SDGs, but rather will certify those impacts.
The Gold Standard certification team will ultimately be employed by SustainCERT, which will formally carry out project reviews and make certification decisions on behalf of Gold Standard.
Project developers and VVBs can expect that certification processes, fees and personnel will remain the same. Over time, new focal points may be introduced. Certification fees and project review fees will be invoiced by SustainCERT as per the existing fee schedule. A full delineation of fees will be provided to reflect the division of work between Gold Standard and SustainCERT but the overall level and timing of fees will not change.
We look forward to continuing to update you on our progress toward ISEAL membership as well as the new opportunities that SustainCERT affords our partners and stakeholders. And we hope you’ll join us in finding new ways to improve what we do as we work towards ‘climate security and sustainable development for all.’