The United Nations Forum on Sustainability Standards (UNFSS) is a platform created to provide information and analysis on voluntary sustainability standards – VSS – (often also termed “private standards” related to occupational safety, environmental, social or animal welfare issues). The UNFSS has a particular focus on the potential value of VSS as tools for developing countries to achieve their sustainable development goals. At the same time, the UNFSS addresses the potential trade or development obstacles these standards may create, with particular emphasis on their impact on small-scale producers and less developed countries. The UNFSS aims to facilitate a dialogue for the exchange of knowledge on these issues and provide a 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. The UNFSS will deliver analytical and empirical work and assist – upon specific request from developing countries – with analysis of VSS in their country’s context and in implementing UNFSS recommendations.
The overall goal of UNFSS activities is to make VSS a driver and avoid it being an obstacle to sustainable development in developing countries.
As discussions on private standards in other related international trade fora have not gone very far, UNFSS will work towards filling this gap by analyzing the impact of VSS and required strategies to pro-actively address VSS, with a country as well as sector specific analytical approach and by providing scientifically based information about costs, benefits and impacts. UNFSS will also explicitly deal with the trade and development concerns regarding VSS and some systemic standard issues, such as, that VSS are scientifically based, are proportionate to the real risk they claim to address, and that the burden of compliance is distributed fairly.
Succinctly stated, the overall goal of UNFSS activities is to make VSS a driver and avoid it being an obstacle to sustainable development in developing countries.