Our History

The need for a coherent agreement on what sustainability means, and how to practically measure it, was the impetus for the genesis of COSA, the Committee on Sustainability Assessment.

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

In the early 2000s, the promise of sustainable agri-food systems was clearly not being delivered. The knowledge that two-thirds of the world’s poorest are actually farmers in developing countries represented one of the most profound failures of modern development.

The complete lack of definitions or metrics impeded clarity and made it very difficult for stakeholders to even discuss what was working and what was not. It quickly became obvious that, without a coherent way to measure and communicate, we would never succeed with the complex factors influencing sustainability.

Born of the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), the Committee on Sustainability Assessment ((COSA) initially convened a handful of institutions and donors (USAID, SIDA, BelgianAid) in a learning consortium that has grown to 70 major institutions globally.

By 2014 we could see that COSA’s initial challenge – to define consistent and widely-accepted measurements using good scientific methods – would not suffice to enable broad uptake and learning. To achieve scale, it would be necessary to generate Sustainability Intelligence Systems with advanced technologies that permit managers to take smarter decisions. Today, COSA is one of the most respected institutions in its field, serving as the “intel inside” of many corporate and institutional systems to understand sustainability.