Integrating Voluntary Sustainability Standards in Trade Agreements: Charting a path for sustainable trade

Before 2018, only 17 free trade agreements (FTAs) had referenced voluntary sustainability standards (VSSs). By 2023, that figure had more than doubled. What is driving this trend? Will it lead to more sustainable trade?

IISD and ISEAL hosted a webinar for different actors engaged in trade policy to learn about the ways that VSSs have been integrated into trade policy to advance sustainability. Focusing on the specific example of FTAs, IISD experts presented recent research and discussed with panellists why more and more FTAs are referencing VSSs and how this integration has played out in practice.


  • Mario Abreu, Head of Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainability, Ferrero
  • Steffany Bermúdez, Policy Advisor, IISD
  • Manuel Chacón, Director of Commercial Relations, Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Tourism, Colombia
  • Dominik Ledergerber, Advisor, Free Trade Agreements/European Free Trade Association (EFTA) Division, Switzerland’s State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO)
  • Seul Lee, Associate Economic Affairs Officer, UN Trade and Development (UNCTAD)
  • Lauro Locks, Counsellor, Trade and Environment Division, World Trade Organization (WTO)
  • Cameron Plese, Head of Government Affairs (North America and Europe), Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO)
  • Florencia Sarmiento, Policy Advisor, IISD
  • Alice Tipping, Director, Trade and Sustainable Development, IISD
  • Joshua Wickerham, Manager, Outreach and Engagement, ISEAL