Universal Standards version 2.0

The Universal Standards version 2.0 was released in August 2016. The revision process was over a year long and involved many industry experts as well as a public comment period. Simultaneously and using a similar process, the Smart Campaign updated its Client Protection Certification Standards. Shortly thereafter, CERISE updated the SPI4 social audit tool to incorporate verbatim the updated versions of both sets of standards. All three organizations are now using the updated standards.

The SPTF, the Smart Campaign, and CERISE are committed to working closely together on both the substance and the timing of our respective work products. Both now and in the future, the Smart Campaign’s standards will be fully integrated into SPTF’s broader Universal Standards—and both sets of standards will form the basis for the SPI4 social audit tool from CERISE. Like every prior edition, the next round of refinements, scheduled for release in 2020, to Universal Standards will reflect input and ideas from our fast-growing worldwide community of practice.

Resources to help compare v1 to v2

Listen to SPTF staff describe how version 2.0 is different than version 1.0.
View a mapping of how version 1.0 compares to version 2.0.

Here are some additional details about the revision process and Version 2.0:

• We followed a transparent and user-driven standard revision processes. The standard-setting procedures were based on the ISEAL Code of Good Practice for Setting Social and Environmental Standards, which sets bets practices for standards development and encourages a consultative and iterative process. We solicited feedback through public comment periods in multiple languages and worked with close partner organizations and experts to revise content.
• Users should find very little in the revised standards that will surprise them. The Universal Standards continue to address the SPM practices of financial service providers (FSPs), including their client protection practices. The format and functionality of the standards and of the SPI4 remain largely unchanged. Most importantly, FSPs that have already used the standards to improve operations will find that all of their efforts to date are still useful in implementing the updated standards.
• The revised standards have been designed to keep pace with the industry’s needs as it grows more sophisticated and influential. New products and delivery methods offer tremendous value for clients, but they also inevitably create additional risks. The revised standards provide new guidelines on responsible savings and insurance products, as well as delivery channels using digital services and agent models, all with an eye toward mitigating risk and creating benefits for clients. The Universal Standards and the SPI4 also include new content on responsibility to the environment. To reflect the broadened scope of the Standards, the documents now refer to “financial service providers (FSPs)” as opposed to “microfinance institutions (MFIs).”
• Both the SPTF and the Smart Campaign worked to minimize redundancies and simplify language. The updated standards are more efficient and easier to understand. These changes are evidenced by a 20% reduction in the number of indicators found in the SPI4 core questionnaire. Both organizations relied heavily on CERISE’s field experience with the SPI4, as well as Smart certification missions and assessments, to understand how to improve the usability of the standards from the perspective of FSPs.
• We are updating our resources. The Smart Campaign and the SPTF both provide myriad resources—templates, guidelines, and case studies—for improving practice. Throughout 2016 and 2017, both organizations will work to update these resources to reflect the revised standards.

What is the current state of practice for Universal Standards implementation?

In 2015 the SPTF conducted the third annual Universal Standards Implementation Survey in collaboration with MIX, the Global Appeal for Responsible Microfinance, and Microcredit Summit Campaign. 407 people responded to the survey including FSPs, networks/associations, investors, support organizations, donors, regulators, rating and assessment agencies. More than 60% of respondents were FSPs. The results show a continued increase in the awareness and implementation of the Universal Standards across stakeholder groups. Some high-level survey results include:

  • 91% of respondents noted being very familiar, familiar, or aware of the Universal Standards.
  • As in 2014, the SPTF website ranked #1 in terms of being the place where to look for information, tools, and resources on social performance management.
  • 74% of FSPs noted the Universal Standards influenced the implementation of SPM practices.
  • 47% of FSPs mentioned have having changed practices in their organization after learning about the Universal Standards.
  • 100% of networks/associations, aware or familiar with the Universal Standards, mentioned having discussed the Universal Standards with stakeholders in their region.
  • 100% of social investors indicated being very familiar, familiar, or aware of the Universal Standards.

To download a summary of the results please click here.

Case Studies of Early Adopters of the Universal Standards

Interested in how FSPs around the world are implementing the Universal Standards? The videos and written case studies below feature FSPs and investors putting the Universal Standards into practice.

ESAF, India
Genesis Empresarial, Guatemala
Horizonti, Macedonia
Juhudi Kilimo, Kenya
Tamweelcom, Jordan