Standards and Value Chains
There are now more than 400 VSSs operating across the planet. These include organic items, fair trade, and the 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 of 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, the private sector, and governments to enhance the effectiveness of VSSs as tools for sustainable development.
Voluntary Sustainability Standards, Public Procurement, and Trade Policy: Trends, challenges, and development implications
Voluntary Sustainability Standards and Resilient Supply Chains: Bananas, cotton, palm oil, and soybeans
Major Trends and Challenges in the Production and Consumption of Agricultural Commodities Compliant with Voluntary Sustainability Standards: Coffee, cacao, tea, and sugar
Voluntary Sustainability Standards and Investments in Agricultural Producers from Developing Countries
How Can Voluntary Standard Certifications Empower Women in Agriculture?
Gender Equality in Agriculture: Leveraging Voluntary Sustainability Standards for Women’s Empowerment
Options to Incorporate Circular Economy Provisions in Regional Trade Agreements
This report explores possible options to incorporate circular economy-related provisions in trade agreements based on existing precedents.
Certification insulates cotton against market shocks
GENEVA – A new policy brief released by a major global think tank claims that compliance with voluntary sustainability standards can help smallholder cotton farmers to be more resilient to global shocks – such as the COVID-19 pandemic.
Four Ways Sustainability Standards Can Build Farmers’ Resilience to COVID-19
We surveyed supply chain actors to ask how farmers are coping with the effects of the pandemic and whether certification has helped them adapt.
Coping with COVID-19: Certification supports farmer resilience
This policy brief presents findings from primary research investigating how voluntary sustainability standards can help smallholder farmers be more resilient during crises.
How Can Voluntary Sustainability Standards Drive Sustainability in Public Procurement and Trade Policy?
The growing use of sustainability standards in public policies is a promising trend, so long as small-scale farmers and businesses are not left behind.
From Bananas to Palm Oil: Tracking the rise and performance of voluntary sustainability standards
Our researchers have drawn a few key conclusions after studying the sustainability potential for eight popular commodities — bananas, cocoa, coffee, cotton, palm oil, soybeans, sugar, and tea.
Can the stain of forced and child labour be removed from cotton?
Ensuring that cotton clothing comes from ethical producers is more difficult than it seems.