1st AP Meeting Summary


The first in-person meeting of the Advisory Panel of the United Nations Forum on Sustainability Standards (UNFSS) focused on developing recommendations on what issues related to Voluntary Sustainability Standards (VSS) and what specific activities the UNFSS should undertake.  The meeting built on a consultation document, distributed prior to the meeting, which recommended key cluster areas of work and possible concrete tools and activities to implement.  These recommendations were the result of the UNFSS’s Steering Committee work, two UNFSS briefing sessions and bi-lateral meetings with delegates and potential participants of the Forum.

The Advisory Panel was asked to provide guidance on:

  1. Prioritizing activities for the first year of UNFSS.
  2. Providing recommendations on the best way to approach these activities.
  3. Recommending other topics/activities seen as priority and which should be included and/or addressed by UNFSS.

The constructive two-day meeting yielded a series of concrete recommendations to be presented to the UNFSS in its official launch event (tentatively planned for the beginning of December 2012 in Geneva).  These recommendations are summarized below:

There was consensus among AP members that UNFSS activities should be (i) demand-driven by developing countries; (ii) besides policy and analytical discussions, lead to some specific deliverables; and (iii) assure appropriate buy-in and ownership by developing countries, in particular LDCs.

Overall, AP members felt that the key purpose of UNFSS was two-fold:

  • Providing much-required, reliable and independent information on VSS.
  • Raise issues of particular concern for developing countries, notably related to the multiplicity of sustainability schemes and the role of governments in turning VSS into a pro-active development tool.

The Minutes and  Key Conclusions documents can be found in the 1st AP Meeting section (restricted to AP Members only).


The United Nations Forum on Sustainability Standards (UNFSS) is a joint initiative of 5 UN Agencies (FAO, ITC, UNCTAD, UN Environment and UNIDO) that seeks to address these challenges. It is a demand-driven forum for intergovernmental actors to communicate among each other and engage with key target groups (producers, traders, consumers, standard-setters, certification-bodies, trade diplomats, relevant NGOs and researchers) to address their information needs and influence concerned stakeholders. It aims to provide impartial information, analysis, and discussions on VSS and their potential contribution to facilitate market access, strengthen public goods and achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Most importantly, the UNFSS focuses on potential trade or development obstacles VSS may create, with particular emphasis on their impact on SMEs and less developed countries.