Improving Engagement of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in Sustainability Standards

Voluntary standards and safeguards are a key part of the transition towards sustainable production. While CSOs are important stakeholders in their development and implementation, barriers exist to effective engagement. This project draws on CCI experience to develop a platform to support CSO engagement and research into sustainability standards and safeguards.

Project Aims

The overall aim of this work would be to reduce the environmental impact of natural resource-based production or extraction through the implementation of more impactful sustainability standards and safeguards. The specific objectives for the project are:

  1. To develop an agreed list of priority standards and associated engagement plan
  2. To financially support active engagement in priority standards/safeguards 
  3. To produce a set of guidelines for environmental CSO engagement in sustainability standards and safeguards
  4. To develop a teaching session on ‘the role of sustainability standards in conservation’
  5. To develop longer term financial model for the platform

Key Activities

  • Establish a database of relevant standards and devise a system for prioritising
  • Produce guidelines that include a review current state of knowledge on the extent to which standards contribute to conservation goals, the way different standards approach biodiversity, the current state of engagement with CSOs and lessons learned from CCI members
  • Distribute funds to support standards engagement by CCI and non CCI members
  • Adapt the guidelines to a teaching module on the use of standards in conservation

Conservation Impact

The scale and impact of economic activity is vast. Palm oil plantations cover 20 m ha in the tropics. Over 50 mt of bauxite are mined every year. The IFC invests billions of $s in development projects annually. Standards and safeguards represent one of the primary approaches for managing and mitigating the impacts of these activities, potentially impacting millions of hectares, yet engagement by conservation organisations in the development and application of such standards is patchy and uncoordinated. It is unclear whether we are missing a golden opportunity to drive change, or risking greenwashing of business as usual. This project represents the first attempt to address this, building a platform for conservation organisations to share experiences, prioritise engagement and build capacity.


  • Guidelines for conservation organisations looking to engage in standards
  • A teaching module for students and practitioners on how best to engage in standards
  • A platform for conservation organisations to share experiences and jointly prioritise future effort
  • Increased engagement in standard development

CCI partners Involved

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) speaks out for birds and wildlife, tackling the problems that threaten our environment. It is the largest wildlife conservation organisation in...
The Department of Geography's research clusters focus on society and environment, development and political ecology, culture and demography, environmental processes, landscape modelling and climate...
BirdLife International is a strategic global partnership of conservation organisations in over 100 countries, working to conserve birds, their habitats and global biodiversity, and to promote...
Fauna & Flora International (FFI) protects threatened species and ecosystems worldwide, choosing solutions that are sustainable, based on sound science and that take account of human needs....
IUCN, the International Union for Conservation of Nature, is the world's oldest and largest global environmental network. It helps the world find pragmatic solutions to our most pressing environment...