UNFSS Year in Review: 2022

Another year full of achievements and learnings comes to an end. As we look back on our successes, we at the UNFSS Secretariat thank each and every one of our partners and supporters for their unwavered support which helped us reach a number of milestones this year.

As we look forward to welcoming 2023 with you, allow us to take this opportunity to highlight some of our key activities in 2022.

UNFSS 2022 in review

Here is our small gesture to conclude 2022 with you. We invite you to take a moment to watch a short video we put together to share some of our 2022 highlights and a little note to thank you for your continuous support (HD available). “No effort is too big, no detail is too small.”

2022 Highlights

Brussels Dialogue on Sustainable Trade

In October 2022, UNFSS held its conference on Sustainable Trade and Development Opportunities in Brussels, Belgium to call on the expertise of the Chair of the European Parliament’s Committee on International Trade, Bernd Lange; Jamaica’s Ambassador-designate to Belgium and Head of Mission to the EU, Symone Betton Nayo; and ISEAL’s Director of Programmes, Kristin Komives; and moderated by Director and Professor of the Global Economics at the Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies, European University Institute, Bernard Hoekman, to unravel the many sustainability challenges faced by developing countries posed by international trade.

Launch of the UNFSS 5th Flagship Report

During the Brussels Dialogue on Sustainable Trade, UNFSS launched its 5th Flagship Report : “Voluntary Sustainability Standards, Sustainability Agenda and Developing Countries Opportunities and Challenges” which aims to investigate the opportunities and challenges associated with Voluntary Sustainability Standards (VSS) for developing countries. The report covered the governance gaps between developed countries (where these standards are set) and developing countries (where these standards are adopted); as well as the multiplicity of standards and harmonization from the establishment of national sustainability standards by developing countries.

Academic Advisory Council Meeting

In October 2022, the UNFSS co-organized its second AAC meeting together with the Leuven Centre for Global Governance Studies, the German Institute of Development and Sustainability (IDOS), and the European University Institute (EUI), hosted at the Irish College in Leuven. The meeting was conducted in a hybrid format and some participants joined in-person and some joined virtually.

The meeting brought together an international mix of academic (members of the AAC), practitioners (members from the UNFSS National Platforms) and policy experts from various disciplines and backgrounds to consolidate the knowledge on VSS, and discuss the contributions of VSS to sustainable development, centered around the theme for discussion: “Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) analysis of VSS”.

Exploring the role of Voluntary Sustainability Standards in Women’s Economic Empowerment in the agriculture sector in developing countries

Women are equally as important economic actors as men, yet they suffer gross inequalities such as gender gaps in income and human capital, despite rapid improvements in global living standards and educational attainment. This report presents evidence and data that proves that many gender-related gaps are identified in the agriculture sector in developing countries which often lead to missed economic opportunities. Market demand tools such as Voluntary Sustainability Standards (VSS) have been identified as having the potential to contribute to achieving gender equality and women’s empowerment, while fulfilling parity in the economy.

While there are specific examples reported from certain countries, wider research in particular on Women´s Economic Empowerment (WEE) and the role of VSS is very limited if not non-existent. Thus, this report aims to first demonstrate the role VSS plays in fostering WEE; and second illustrate the contribution of VSS to the global agenda of SDG 5: Gender Equality with the available empirical findings on the impact of VSS on gender equality and WEE. The report also presents case studies where this link was investigated.

Reflecting on Sustainability Standards: Trade and the Sustainability Crisis

This paper summarizes the VSS Academic Advisory Council’s Roundtables. The roundtables aimed to foster the debate on the possibilities and limitations of sustainability standards as tools to environmental, social and economic sustainability. They were jointly organized by the United Nations Forum on Sustainability Standards (UNFSS) and EVIDENSIA, in collaboration with the KU Leuven Center for Global Governance. Through this paper, the “effectiveness” of VSS is defined along multiple dimensions, all of which are covered and assessed. A first dimension, goal-attainment effectiveness, focuses on the impact of VSS on a range of social, economic and environmental indicators. A second dimension, process effectiveness, analyses the degree to which VSS are adopted by economic operators and the drivers for adoption. A third dimension, constitutive effectiveness, focuses on the degree to which VSS change the overall approach of actors involved in the policy process towards sustainability, i.e., the degree to which their theories of change are used more widely. VSS’s role in international trade is also debated and discussed.