Find background information on the consultation of the credibility criteria for the evaluation of sustainability standards here.


SSCT Full set of credibility criteria

Factsheet SSCT


Factsheet Siegelklarheit

Information on Kompass Nachhaltigkeit 


Summary of the first consultation round


on SSCT-Methodology

SSCT stands for Sustainability Standards Comparison Tool and is the name of the methodology to analyze and compare sustainability standards. The tool was developed in 2013 and 2014 by GIZ in cooperation with national and international experts on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development. In 2020, the methodology was revised to make the assessment easier and more comprehensible without losing depth in the assessment. 

The SSCT methodology is applied on two platforms in Germany: ‘Siegelklarheit’ (German for “Clarity in labels”), a platform for consumers and ‘Gütezeichenfinder’ (German for “Label Finder”), on the platform ‘Kompass Nachhaltigkeit’ for public procurement. If you are further interested in the methodology and its applicationon these two platforms, have a look:

The evaluation of a sustainability standard for ‘Siegelklarheit’ (currently in German only) is carried out in three dimensions: credibility, environment and social responsibility. Each dimension has its own comprehensive set of criteria.  
There are two types of criteria in each dimension: minimum criteria and further criteria. The minimum criteria for the credibility dimension are particularly important as they must be met as a prerequisite to evaluate a standard comprehensively in the three dimensions.  
When a standard has been assessed within all three dimensions, the overall evaluation (“Good choice” or “Very good choice”) is determined. Find out how that works in detail in the overview of the methodology.

The SSCT consists of the so-called "Minimum Criteria of the German Government" and additional criteria, which together form an overall catalog of criteria. The minimum criteria guarantee that the evaluated standards address the most important social and ecological challenges in their respective product group and are secured by a credible implementation system. 

The minimum criteria are approved by the steering committee of ‘Siegelklarheit’ consisting of the German Federal Government, the additional criteria by the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (cf. Factsheet Siegelklarheit). To understand the structure, check out the factsheet of ‘Siegelklarheit’.  

In 2013 and 2014, almost 150 experts exchanged on the structure and content of the criteria under the overall coordination of GIZ on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development. A project group consisting of experts from science, civil society and the private sector then drew up a comprehensive list of criteria on behalf of the German Federal Government. This list comprises around 200 criteria. It is based on the guidelines of international organisations, scientific findings and specifications from various standard-setting organisations associations. The minimum criteria of the different product groups are selected by experts from the respective sector.  

In order to reflect new political and technical developments, both the minimum criteria and the additional criteria for the credibility dimension are being revised as part of the current consultation.

For some criteria Siegelklarheit the answer options not only provide yes/no, but also further gradation. In order to ensure a certain depth of assessment, the Degree of Obligation (DoO) and the Degree of Intensity (DoI) was introduced in the social and environmental criteria sets.  

Basically, the DoO determines the time frame within which a criterion must be met, whereas the DoI is defined individually. Following example illustrates the use of DoO and DoI on a criterion concerning cotton cultivation:  

Criterion: "Does the standard include criteria on synthetic pesticides? 

Degree of Obligation  

  • Not fulfilled  
  • Recommendation  
  • Transition period  
  • Immediate 

Degree of Intensity 

  • Restrict use of synthetic pesticides
  • Prohibit use of synthetic pesticides 

The more binding and demanding a standard document defines requirements, the higher the standard scores in the evaluation. The SSCT credibility criteria follow a similar but slightly different logic. While some criteria have several response options, there are no Degrees of Obligation.

on the consultation process

The SSCT credibility criteria were introduced about five years ago and are currently undergoing a revision process to ensure that they reflect new professional, social and political developments in the field. The consultation assesses whether the revised draft now ensures that the criteria are up-to-date, relevant and applicable. The consultation covers the following topics:  

  • System Management
  • Standard Setting  
  • Assurance
  • Claims & Traceability.

From mid-January to March/April 2021 interested stakeholders have the opportunity to participate in the revision of the SSCT credibility criteria. This will be done via two consultations (18 January to 28 February 2021 and 29 March untill 25 April 2021) on this platform.   

Registration is required for active participation in the online consultation. 

Anyone! It is a public consultation that is open to any interested person, organisation or company. The involvement of interested stakeholder groups and their perspectives is particularly important for this revision. These stakeholder groups include, among others   

  • Consumers: The platform ‘Siegelklarheit’ is for consumers who are interested in sustainable consumption and sustainability labels.    
  • Standard organisations: Standard organisations work on a daily basis with producers from all over the world, retailers and consumers and are therefore very familiar with the challenges in terms of sustainable production.
  • Assurance providers and accreditation bodies: Assurance providers often assess multiple sustainability standards and are thereby experts in credibility related topics. Oftentimes, before being able to do so they need to prove their competence for this task to an accreditation body.    
  • Associations: Associations combine the interests of their members, e.g. in specific industries, and therefore, have a good overview of sectorial challenges in terms of sustainability.
  • Companies: Many operate at the interfaces between production, processing and consumers and are familiar with the requirements of various sustainability standards.
  • Further standard organisations or sustainability initiatives: These include e.g. member initiatives, factory certificates, as well as company-owned standards and also contribute to sustainable supply chains from their respective angle.  
  • Civil Society: Many organisations in this sector work on sustainability standards with different focuses and have participated in the development of various sustainability standards.    
  • State actors: They deal with sustainability standards from different angles: for example, because they award label themselves or act as accreditation bodies.  
  • Organisations from developing countries: Many products or their components do not originate from Germany but are produced abroad according to the criteria laid down in sustainability standards. In this respect, organisations from developing countries, e.g. companies, associations and from civil society, can contribute important perspectives, e.g. on the applicability of the credibility criteria.  
  • Academia: Researcher can commet on the credibility criteria from their respective research practice and also contribute valuable insights into the current revision.

The SSCT criteria are also used on Sustainability Compass portal, which aimes at public procurers in Germany. Therefore, the criteria that are particularly relevant for public procurement are highlighted.    

Due to their legal relevance, they cannot be changed and are therefore, not available for comments in the public consultation.

on sustainability standards related affairs

They can be found on products that:  

  • have been produced in an environmentally and/or socially responsible manner  
  • support consumers in making informed consumption decisions
  • promote responsible business conduct  

Seal, standard and certification are often synonymously used to labels.

The "standard" is a document which defines the sustainability requirements for the product or production process. 
The "standard system" goes beyond the standard. It includes the implementation process and the control mechanism.

The requirements can relate to different aspects:  

  • Manufacturing process, e.g. the prohibition of child labour  
  • Properties of a product, e.g. energy consumption of an electrical appliance  
  • Management processes, e.g. operational environmental management

Certifications are undertaken to verify that products, processes or systems meet the comprehensive requirements of a standard. Many standard organisations demand as certification requirement an audit by a third party. These are often accredited certification bodies that are independent of the standard organisation on the one hand and the company applying for the standard on the other. If the company that wishes to be certified passes the audit, a certificate is issued. As certificate holder, the company is allowed to use claims such as logos as defined by the standard organisation.

Yes. So far, Siegelklarheit focuses on voluntary sustainability standards (VSS), which have historically been at the forefront of promoting sustainable production and fair supply chains. They are now established on the market and perceived as an important orientation for many consumers.  However, besides VSS many other approaches have been developed aiming at more sustainability in production and consumption. Here are some examples: 

  • company-owned standards mean that companies define their own requirements for awarding the respective label on their own products.
  • B2B labels (Business to Business labels) are focused on trade between companies and are usually not visible to consumers on products they buy. However, they can come across such labels through marketing of the respective company or coverage in the media.
  • Factory certificates, which check whether a factory complies with the ecological and/or social requirements defined in the standard. As a rule, consumers cannot trace whether their product originates from a factory with such a certificate as it does not show on the product itself.  
  • Membership-based initiatives adress, for example, industry-specific sustainability issues and thus, also work towards greater sustainability in the supply chain.

If you have any questions, please contact us here.