Advisory Services

Voluntary sustainability standards (VSSs) can be a useful tool for developing countries seeking to support local livelihoods and promote exports while encouraging more environmentally friendly production practices. However, the multitude and variety of sustainability initiatives can make it a complex field to navigate.

The SSI team provides pro-bono advisory services for developing-country governments based on their unique and specific needs. Through this service, we aim to give policy decision-makers the data and knowledge they need to make informed decisions about VSSs and sustainable markets. Our advice covers many topics, including:

  • Designing and implementing standards-related strategies and regulations.
  • Strengthening the country’s competitive advantage in specific commodity markets (by providing information on topics such as best practices for achieving sustainability outcomes, market performance, and buyers’ perception of commodities the country sells).
  • Analyzing production and consumption trends for commodities compliant with VSSs and examining market opportunities.

If you are interested in discussing how we can support your government or regional body to leverage VSSs for sustainable development, please send an email to [email protected].

Examples of Our Work

Madagascar: Developing a national organic standard for agriculture

Agriculture provides the main source of income in Madagascar. (Photo: David González Rebollo, iStock)

Madagascar is the fifth largest island in the world and one of the 17 richest countries in biodiversity, as identified by Conservation International. Its diverse climatic regions and geographical isolation have made it the perfect home for some of the world’s most unique flora and fauna.

Agriculture provides the main source of income for most of the people who live there. In 2018, roughly 65% of the population worked in the agricultural sector, which accounted for 22% of the country’s GDP. However, the sector faces significant challenges—ranging from high deforestation rates to fragmented value chains­—which threaten the sustainability of both livelihoods and ecosystems.

To address these challenges, Madagascar’s Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, and Fisheries invited us to conduct a study to identify the risks and opportunities associated with the development of a national standard for organic agriculture and organic labelling. Organic certification sets criteria that producers are required to comply with to become more sustainable, such as improve soil fertility, prevent deforestation, and build resilience to climate change.

Our work identified several risks and opportunities that could arise from establishing an organic standard and implementing a national organic agriculture strategy, and proposed a series of recommendations to address them. The recommendations were grouped under the following four themes: enhancing producer capacity; supporting education, research, and development; building regulation and institutional capacity; and encouraging market development and promotion. The Government of Madagascar included a number of our recommendations in their national strategy for organic agriculture.