Will the Inclusion of Voluntary Standards in Trade Agreements Lead to More Sustainable Trade?

The use of voluntary sustainability standards (VSSs) and similar systems in free trade agreements (FTAs) is gaining traction. Will it lead to more sustainable production and consumption globally?

By Steffany Bermúdez, Florencia Sarmiento on April 23, 2024

Our experts answer some of the key questions trade policy-makers may have about the growing trend to include VSSs in FTAs. They explain what VSSs are, how many FTAs reference them and in what ways, and what issues need to be addressed to maximize potential benefits. Recommendations include

  • standardizing the terms and definitions used to refer to VSSs,
  • defining enforcement mechanisms to help implement provisions that refer to VSSs,
  • including provisions that support small-scale producers with VSS compliance,
  • providing tools for assessing VSSs’ credibility, and
  • developing minimum requirements and guidelines on how and which VSSs should be used in trade policy.

Better integration of VSSs in trade policy has the potential to complement and reinforce public regulations. In turn, trade rules could improve the design and implementation of VSSs to advance sustainable trade globally.

Brief details

Standards and Value Chains
State of Sustainability Initiatives
Focus area
IISD, 2024