The Knowledge to Act
More

Topic

Voluntary Sustainability Standards

Share This

Over the last two decades, there has been exponential growth in the demand and supply of leading standard-compliant products, which has led to the growth and proliferation of voluntary sustainability standards (VSSs).

There are now more than 400 VSSs operating across the planet. These include organic items, fair trade and Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) to name a few. These standards are guidelines for producing, selling and purchasing products in a sustainable manner. They provide manufacturers and retailers with information about the reliability and safety conditions behind a product. They also provide consumers with information about the sustainability efforts taken for their production and manufacturing, with the aim of positively affecting communities, the environment and the economy.

Many of these sustainability initiatives are created by small groups of collaborating partners, influencing their impartiality. This also affects the ability of other stakeholders to provide input into the founding characteristics of the initiatives and how they operate. Because standards and voluntary sustainability initiatives also set rules for production and trade, these standards should ensure an inclusive governance from their design to their implementation. This promotion of good governance in standards initiatives is a key priority for IISD.

Given this growth and the relative contribution of VSSs as tools for sustainable development, IISD presents production and consumption market information in an accessible manner to foster transparency, knowledge and strategic decision making in the State of Sustainability Initiatives (SSI) reporting series. The SSI is an international transparency and capacity-building project that aims to improve strategic planning and sustainable development outcomes related to VSSs by providing in-depth, credible and needs-based information. It equips supply-chain decision-makers and governments with the inclusive and transparent information they need to make informed decisions and contribute to sustainable development.

What do we do?

  • We analyze the founding characteristics and requirements of VSSs versus sustainable development issues, such as biodiversity conservation, poverty reduction and gender equity, to understand their strengths and limitations, and highlight opportunities for improvement.
  • We track and analyze the market performance of sustainable production and consumption of commodity markets and VSSs globally to understand trends and impacts.

How do we do this?

  • We collect primary data from VSSs and standards setters on their systems characteristics and market performance using quantitative and qualitative methods.
  • We conduct research and collect secondary data related to sustainable markets, VSSs and development issues through extensive literature review and establishing strategic partnerships with leading data providers to fill knowledge gaps.
  • We analyze data and provide recommendations for standard setters, private sector and governments to enhance the effectiveness of VSSs as tools for sustainable development.
  • Policy Brief
    Voluntary Sustainability Standards and Biodiversity: Understanding the potential of agricultural standards for biodiversity protection

    Voluntary Sustainability Standards and Biodiversity: Understanding the potential of agricultural standards for biodiversity protection

    Voluntary sustainability standards offer an opportunity to reduce the biodiversity impacts of agriculture and to promote best practices, which can also improve yields and help to feed a growing population.

    Read More
  • Report
    Quantifying the Challenges of Adopting Sustainability Criteria for Biofuel Production

    Quantifying the Challenges of Adopting Sustainability Criteria for Biofuel Production

    This case study examines the challenges associated with certifying the production of sustainable alternative fuels (SAFs) for the commercial aviation sector. It draws on interviews with producers who underwent certification for sustainable practices, a literature review on sustainability standards and certification processes, and personal communication with professionals from the aviation industry and academia.

    Read More
  • Book
    State of Sustainability Initiatives Review: Standards and the Blue Economy

    State of Sustainability Initiatives Review: Standards and the Blue Economy

    This report examines market and performance trends of the nine most prevalent seafood certification schemes, including the Marine Stewardship Council, GLOBAL G.A.P. and Friend of the Sea.

    Read More
  • Blog
    A Beef with Competition

    A Beef with Competition

    Should the arrival of ethical beef at Earl’s restaurants be considered good news?

    Read More
  • Report
    The State of Sustainable Markets: Statistics and emerging trends 2015

    The State of Sustainable Markets: Statistics and emerging trends 2015

    IISD contributes to a joint report with ITC and FiBL on the State of Sustainable Markets. This joint report builds off of the IISD’s State of Sustainability Initiatives Review 2014 by reporting on the market performance of 14 voluntary sustainability standards across nine agricultural commodity sectors.

    Read More
  • Paper
    Meeting China’s Global Resource Needs and Managing Sustainability Impacts to Ensure Security of Supply: Synthesis Report

    Meeting China’s Global Resource Needs and Managing Sustainability Impacts to Ensure Security of Supply: Synthesis Report

    This paper outlines and tests a commodity-by-commodity framework for assessing sustainability risks and vulnerability for importers. The framework is designed to be applied both at the enterprise (micro) level and at the national (macro) level. 

    Read More
  • Paper
    Meeting China's Global Resource Needs and Managing Sustainability Impacts to Ensure Security of Supply: Copper Pilot Study

    Meeting China’s Global Resource Needs and Managing Sustainability Impacts to Ensure Security of Supply: Copper Pilot Study

    China’s large and growing inbound supply chains are among the most direct ways in which China’s rise impacts economies worldwide.

    Read More
  • Paper
    Meeting China's Global Resource Needs Managing Sustainability Impacts to Ensure Security of Supply: The IISD Supply Risk Tool Methodology

    Meeting China’s Global Resource Needs Managing Sustainability Impacts to Ensure Security of Supply: The IISD Supply Risk Tool Methodology

    China’s large and growing inbound supply chains are among the most direct ways in which China’s rise impacts economies worldwide.

    Read More
  • Paper
    Meeting China's Global Resource Needs Managing Sustainability Impacts to Ensure Security of Supply: Palm Oil Pilot Study

    Meeting China's Global Resource Needs Managing Sustainability Impacts to Ensure Security of Supply: Palm Oil Pilot Study

    China’s large and growing inbound supply chains are among the most direct ways in which China’s rise impacts economies worldwide.For exporting...

    Read More
  • Book
    The State of Sustainability Initiatives Review 2014: Standards and the Green Economy

    The State of Sustainability Initiatives Review 2014: Standards and the Green Economy

    The State of Sustainability Initiatives (SSI) Review 2014 provides a bird's-eye view of market and performance trends across 16 of the most...

    Read More