Our History

COSA was launched to deliver pragmatic ways to measure sustainability with science-based credibility

Today we are a neutral consortium whose global networks and non-profit status facilitate our commitment to public service. COSA is based on partnerships with dozens of leading institutions that are applying advanced methods to measure projects and investments worldwide.


Birth of the Idea

At COSA’s genesis was one of the profound failures of our modern agri-food system: knowledge that 2/3 of the world’s poorest people are actually farmers in developing countries. To change that at any scale, we would need a range of good metrics for stakeholders to quickly know what works and what does not. Without a coherent and credible way to measure, we would never succeed with the complex factors influencing sustainability and deep poverty.

Born of the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), we initially convened a handful of organizations in a learning consortium called the Committee on Sustainability Assessment or COSA. With the help of the Swiss Government (SECO) and the Ford Foundation, COSA has since grown to 70 institutions sharing state-of-the-art sustainability experience globally. This work has pioneered the necessary science-based metrics needed for clarity about the factors that drive sustainability. Those metrics are now widely integrated into thousands of systems.

By 2014 we could see that COSA’s initial challenge – to define consistent and credible measurements to evaluate sustainability impact – would not suffice to enable rapid learning. To achieve results at scale, it would be necessary to effectively transform data to knowledge (our term is D2K) for decision-makers. In the last decade, we have evolved beyond our SMART metrics to also offer coherent systems that equip managers with pragmatic tools. Many can now take smarter decisions and succeed at accelerating sustainability in cost-effective ways.

Today, COSA is one of the most respected institutions in its field, pioneering advanced technologies and world-class risk management to improve investments and anticipate sustainability challenges across programs, supply chains, and sectors. We are proud to serve as the “intel inside” of many leading corporate and institutional systems delivering excellent ROI. If you are serious about sustainability, we would be pleased to discuss how we can help you reach your goals.