Launch of the 3rd Flagship Report: Voluntary Sustainability Standards (VSS), Trade and Sustainable Development

3rd UNFSS Flagship Report: Voluntary Sustainability Standards (VSS), Trade and Sustainable Development


The relationship between Voluntary Sustainability Standards (VSS), trade and sustainable development are among the most pronounced concepts sought-after the realm of green global value chains. We typically see the benefits of imposing sustainability standards as a positive advantage contributing to the environment, social and the economy. The VSS system has in fact influence the export landscape to either facilitate market access or become an obstacle to trade, especially for importing countries that have turned to VSS as a market reality. More often than not, the obstacles are greatly impacting small-medium enterprises (SMEs) and small-scale producers, notably those in developing countries. This brought about the emergence of National VSS Multi-stakeholder Platforms through the support of public actors on trade opportunities as well as the fundamental role of global governance.

The 3rd UNFSS Flagship is set to impart an agenda surrounding VSS and its relation to trade issues, in particular the impact of VSS on market access.

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Learn how VSS can have direct links to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

Seeing VSS as a catalyst of sustainable development, the UNFSS 3rd flagship report did a study that identifies the resemblance of VSS and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Using the Sustainability Map database which covers 241 VSS applicable to more than 80 sectors and 180 countries, the direct channel through which VSS can contribute to sustainable development can be measured by the empirical links between VSS and the SDGs. Benchmarking 10 selected SDGs against the requirements of the 122 VSS in the sample, the analysis reveals a significant potential to create institutional complementaries betweeen VSS and the SDGs.





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.