State of Sustainability Initiatives Review: Standards and the Extractive Economy

This report examines voluntary sustainability initiatives (VSIs), and their aim to promote sustainable production practices in the mining sector.

By Laura Turley, Jason Potts, Matthew Wenban-Smith, Matthew Lynch on September 10, 2018

In the last decade, the international community has increasingly recognized the central role of sustainable consumption and production in the implementation of sustainable development.

As a result, the mining sector, like other primary commodity sectors, has seen a wide variety of multistakeholder, market-based supply chain initiatives arise. These are called voluntary sustainability initiatives (VSIs), and they aim to promote sustainable production practices, often at the global level.

The rapid growth in the number of VSIs has been cause for concern for some civil society and public-sector players, as well as for the private sector, as keeping track of the sheer volume and diversity of initiatives is challenging and costly. Because this monitoring is difficult, the value of VSIs to society and the marketplace may suffer as a result.

This report dives headfirst into this complex and quickly moving space to provide readers with synthesis and analysis across a number of areas. We have applied a distinctly rigorous methodology across 15 major initiatives, capturing not only the content (environmental, social and business dimensions)—where most other analyses end off—but also the level of obligation demanded by the initiative to implement sustainability actions. Our review is comprehensive, revealing the different strengths (and often the different intended purposes) of VSIs and the challenge of finding a one-size-fits-all initiative.

For recent developments on the standards covered in this report, please visit the individual standards' websites:

Publication details

Standards and Value Chains
Focus area
IISD, 2018