Shaping Tomorrow's Trade: Insights from the 3rd ICSTS The future of sustainable trade: VSS and due diligence regulations 3rd International Convention on Sustainable Trade and Standards The EU Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive (CS3D): What Role for Voluntary Sustainability Standards (VSS)? The EU Due Diligence Regulation on Deforestation: What Role for Voluntary Sustainability Standards (VSS)?

What are Voluntary Sustainability Standards (VSS)?

Voluntary Sustainability Standards (VSS) are rules that producers, traders, manufacturers, retailers or service providers may be asked to follow so that the things they make, grow or do don’t hurt people and the environment.

These standards help keep workers healthy and safe, protect communities and land, and uphold human rights, as well as moderating the environmental impacts of production and consumption.


Voluntary Sustainability Standards in International Trade

Publication: December 2022

Global trade offers huge potential to contribute to sustainable development, but it must be governed in a way that mitigates some of its negative impacts on sustainability. Accordingly, many initiatives have been developed that seek to govern global trade in a way that would make it more sustainable. One important initiative is the development and implementation of voluntary sustainability standards (VSS) relating to products and production processes. This report provides an introduction to VSS as instruments for making international trade more sustainable. Link:

UNFSS 5th Flagship Report- Voluntary Sustainability Standards (VSS), Sustainability Agenda and Developing Countries: Opportunities and Challenges

Publication: October 2022

This report aims to study the role of VSS in advancing the sustainability agenda in developing countries and to assess the opportunities and challenges associated with VSS uptake in these countries. The report can be accessed at:

Chapter 4.0 Understanding Smallholder Farmer Access to VSS-Compliant Markets

Publication December 2021
Download Full Paper

The SSI Review: Standards and Poverty Reduction examines how voluntary sustainability standards can contribute to poverty reduction for smallholder farmers. This chapter draws on interviews with stakeholders from the Global South to shed light on the factors that influence smallholder farmers’ access to VSS-compliant markets—defined in this report as the ability of smallholders to comply and maintain compliance with VSSs and sell their products in VSS-compliant markets. It aims to improve understanding of how to address limitations and harness enabling factors to create an enabling environment for VSSs to contribute to poverty reduction.

Better Trade for Sustainable Development: The role of voluntary sustainability standards

Publication August 2021
Download Full Paper

This report provides a comprehensive analysis of the potentials and constraints of VSS in making international trade more sustainable, in particular with regards to developing countries development opportunities. It investigates the means of maximizing VSS contribution to sustainable development and minimizing their risks. It also presents, based on the literature, the evidence we have on the economic, social and environmental impacts of VSS on the ground. Furthermore, it investigates the barriers to VSS uptake specifically in developing countries and proposes structural approaches that can be considered for enhancing the potential of VSS.

Caribbean Community (CARICOM) export potential to the European Union

Publication April 2021
Download Full Paper

This report assesses the Caribbean Community´s (CARICOM) agriculture (Herbs and Spices, Cocoa, Sugar Cane and Coconut) and aquaculture export potential to the European Union through the utilization of Voluntary Sustainability Standards (VSS).

The European Union is the second most important export market for CARICOM countries, after the United States of America. It is important to note that the impact of the European Union Directives is very significant for CARICOM since the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between them expressly refers to the concept of “sustainable development”.

SECO’s Engagement in Voluntary Sustainability Standards (VSS) An evolving commitment to drive sustainability in Global Value Chains

Publication March 2021
Download Full Paper

A new Position Paper on Sustainability Standards highlights SECO’s role in driving sustainability impacts in global value chains through voluntary sustainability standards such as Fairtrade InternationalRainforest Alliance or Forest Stewardship Council™. Against the background of pressing global challenges linked to climate change, biodiversity loss, food insecurity and poverty, the paper elucidates new trends, analyzes the increasing interlinkages between government regulations and voluntary market-based standards and points at future priorities of SECO’s cooperation in this field.

Linking Voluntary Standards to Sustainable Development Goals

Publication for October 2020
Download Full Paper

With the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the United Nations has called on the private sector to contribute more to achieving the sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This report helps decision makers in the public and private sectors to understand where voluntary sustainability standards are best placed to contribute. It maps the linkages between these standards and each SDG goal, including its specific targets.

Trade policy and VSS Podcast

In this podcast, produced in partnership with the United Nations Forum on Sustainability Standards (UNFSS), Vidya Rangan (Senior Manager for Impacts and Evidence, ISEAL) talks to UNCTAD Senior Economist and UNFSS Coordinator, Santiago Fernández de Córdoba, and Deputy Director of the Leuven Centre for Global Governance Studies, Axel Marx, about the debates surrounding trade policy and VSS, particularly in the context of the of the 4th Flagship report published by UNFSS in September 2020. Visit –

ISEAL Credibility Principles consultation

The ISEAL Credibility Principles provide an international reference for defining the foundations of credible practices for sustainability standards. Stakeholder consultations on the ISEAL Credibility Principles revision are open until 31 July 2020.  Everyone with an interest in what credible practices look like for sustainability standards and similar systems, such as data-driven or landscape approaches, are encouraged to participate.


EdX MOOC “The UN Sustainable Development Goals: an Interdisciplinary Academic Introduction”

An interdisciplinary introduction to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)which looks at all SDGs, their progress and challenges. Find out more about the course here.

2nd International Convention on Sustainable Trade and Standards - Brazil, 16-18 September 2019

Jointly organized by InmetroFirjan, and the UNFSS , the 2nd International Convention on Sustainable Trade and Standards aims to advance multi-stakeholder dialogues on Voluntary Sustainability Standards (VSS) as an avenue to improve the transparency of VSS and foster greater partnerships between trading partners towards sustainable global value chains and achieving the UN SDGs.

Watch Video Streaming 
Go to Events Page
Photo Gallery

Public Awareness and Internal Meeting on Voluntary Sustainability Standard (VSS) in Indonesia, November 2018

The main objective of this event was to raise awareness on VSS within the country in order to establish a VSS framework, as well as to discuss the work plan for the Indonesia’s VSS National Platform launch with the support of UNFSS. The forum has concluded and agreed to shape a VSS National Platform – see Indonesia’s National Platform trajectories.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

United Nations Forum on Sustainability Standards (UNFSS)

UNFSS addresses the sustainable development value of Voluntary Sustainability Standards (VSS) by pooling resources, synchronizing efforts, and ensuring policy coherence, coordination and collaboration among United Nations agencies.

The Forum is coordinated by a Steering Committee of five United Nations agencies:

   The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)

   The International Trade Centre (ITC)

   The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD)

   United Nations Environment Programme (UN Environment)

   The United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO)

UNFSS Flagship Publication Reports

UNFSS publishes a Flagship report biennially on trending topics that are important to the evolution of Voluntary Sustainability Standards (VSS). These reports are pivotal tools for all stakeholders from the public and private sectors to gain substantial information through a transparent network.

Visit Flagship Publication Page

Academic Advisory Council

The Academic Advisory Council (AAC) is designed to pursue the following scientific objective: foster research and understand the effectiveness of VSS. comprising of academic experts in the field from all disciplinary backgrounds. This interdisciplinary approach is vital for issues around standards, especially considering the developing countries. The AAC meets every fall to discuss these issues.

Know more about the Academic Advisory Council and its activities

National Multi-Stakeholder Platforms

We’ve helped several emerging countries  to develop multi-stakeholder platforms for Voluntary Sustainability Standards (VSS). These national initiatives, created and shared by stakeholders under each country’s designated coordinating body, reflect local priorities. They are organized and structured in a transparent, inclusive and demand-driven way.




Our member agencies

Aligning our work with the Sustainable Development Goals