Aligning Industry Standards for Sustainable Supply Chains

Navigating the challenges of the complex sustainability landscape, the Sustainable Supply Chain Initiative (SSCI) offers practical guidance for organisations on the industry’s minimum expectations for how to evaluate supply chain sustainability. 

As organisations often use third-party schemes and programmes to independently verify their supply chain sustainability, this guidance is a key tool for ensuring these initiatives operate in a credible and trustworthy manner.

The SSCI Benchmark plays a critical role in the sustainability landscape by evaluating third-party schemes and programmes against these minimum expectations, ultimately recognising the initiatives that demonstrate alignment. 

As a result, SSCI-Recognised schemes and programmes signal to the industry their commitment to raising the bar in their certification processes and driving harmonisation in a diverse field of sustainability standards, while at the same time remaining free to innovate their approaches to ensure sustainability in a dynamic way. 

The SSCI Benchmark Scopes

The SSCI Benchmark is open to third-party auditing, monitoring, and certification standards operated by schemes and programmes covering activities in several sectors across both social and environmental sustainability. 

Social Compliance

Manufacturing & Processing

Primary Production (includes land-based agriculture and aquaculture)

At-Sea Operations

Environmental Compliance

Manufacturing & Processing

Primary Production


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The Benchmarking Process


To achieve SSCI Recognition, schemes and programmes need to undergo benchmarking according to the SSCI methodology. This process starts with an application to the SSCI team and includes a self-assessment, a desktop review by an independent SSCI expert Benchmark Leader (BL), an office visit from the SSCI and the BL coupled with a public consultation, and a final industry validation by the SSCI Steering Committee. If all criteria are met, the scheme is recognised by the SSCI.

The basic steps of the Benchmark process are below. 

The SSCI Benchmark methodology is streamlined with the benchmark methodology of the CGF Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) to ensure a consistent approach to benchmarking across the CGF.  Applicants that have applied to be listed on the ITC’s Standards Map are invited to use the new SSCI-ITC Synergy Tool to save time and effort while completing the SSCI Benchmark Self-Assessment. Thanks to the new Synergy Tool, schemes already listed on the ITC Standards Map can pre-fill fields in the SSCI Benchmark Self-Assessment using responses from equivalent criteria in their Standards Map application. 

The SSCI Benchmark Requirements

Social standards are benchmarked against the SSCI’s sector-specific Social Criteria, which organisations can also use as a reference for the industry’s minimum expectations for how social sustainability should be defined in each respective sector. Environmental standards will be benchmarked against a set of sector-specific Environmental Criteria which can also be used as a reference for how environmental sustainability should be defined.

All SSCI Benchmark applicants are also benchmarked against the SSCI’s Scheme Management Criteria, which include guidance on how schemes should be governed and how audits and certifications be conducted.

Importantly, the SSCI Criteria have been developed for the industry, by the industry, based on collaborative, multistakeholder engagement across business, NGOs, academia, and intergovernmental organisations. The Criteria are designed to mature as the sustainability landscape continues to evolve in order to drive continuous improvement in the industry’s approach to sustainability.

The details of the SSCI Social and Scheme Management Criteria are available below. Click on each set of Criteria to learn more about the key sustainability requirements and relevant governance and verification elements they include.

The SSCI Scheme Management Criteria Version 1.2 cover elements that ensure auditing schemes operate in a credible manner. They establish the foundational elements of what the industry expects regarding how audits are performed so that they respect social sustainability standards. These criteria are based on the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) scheme management criteria, the Global Sustainable Seafood Initiative (GSSI) governance and operational management criteria, and ISEAL criteria. The Scheme Management Criteria include the following elements:


  • Scheme Governance
  • Scope and Objectives
  • Integrity Programme
  • Logo Use and Claims
  • Standard Setting and Maintenance

Operational Management / System

  • Accreditation
  • Relationship with Audit Firms
  • Auditor Competence
  • Audit Protocol
  • Audit Reporting
  • Follow-up Action
  • Data Management

The Scheme Management Criteria for all scopes can be found in Part II of the SSCI Benchmarking Requirements. To achieve SSCI Recognition, standards must meet all applicable criteria in Part II as well as the respective criteria for their benchmarking scope listed in Part III. Terms used in the Scheme Management Criteria are defined in Part IV of the SSCI Benchmarking Requirements.

The SSCI’s Social Criteria identify the key foundational elements of any effective and responsible social sustainability standard. These criteria ensure that all relevant social sustainability topics are being covered by an auditing scheme. The SSCI Social Criteria are informed by international reference frameworks such as principles from relevant International Labour Organization (ILO) Conventions, the 1998 Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, and the CGF Priority Industry Principles on Forced Labour. The criteria include the following elements:


Management Systems

  • Compliance with National Legislation
  • No Forced, Bonded and Prison Labour
  • No Child Labour
  • Freedom of Association and Effective Recognition of the Right to Collective Bargaining
  • No Discrimination, Harassment or Abuse
  • Health and Safety
  • Building and Fire Safety
  • Wages, Benefits and Terms of Employment
  • Working Hours
  • Grievance Mechanisms


For the Primary Production scope, the Social Criteria also include the following elements:

  • Chemical Management
  • Community Impact/Responsible Farming Practices


For the At-Sea Operations scope, the Social Criteria also include: 

  • Repatriation

The Social Criteria can be found in each scope’s respective Part III of the SSCI Benchmark Criteria. To achieve SSCI Recognition, schemes must meet all criteria listed under Part III for their respective benchmarking scopes and all applicable criteria listed under Part II. Terms used in the Social Criteria are defined in Part IV of the SSCI Benchmarking Requirements.