Through the annual VSS Academic Advisory Council meeting, the AAC members share their latest research, provide feedback to other researchers, explore research synergies and potential for collaboration, and identify topics for future research. In addition, UNFSS, along with its partners, also facilitates discussion among AAC members through conducting regular policy discussions on sustainability standards, roundtable discussions, workshops on data collection methods, podcasts and regional briefing sessions, where the expert inputs from the AAC members during these events significantly adds value to the discussions.

The discussions often summarise key issues around VSS and provide avenues for further research. These are thus summarised on a case basis and presented in publications. Key publications can be found below:

I. 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.

This paper summarizes the discussions and outcomes of the three roundtable discussions. It brings different perspectives on VSS together which can inform and contribute to a comprehensive understanding of VSS effectiveness through GVCs. 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.

To read the full report: