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.

No Poverty among Smallholder Farmers: Can access to Voluntary Sustainability Standards (VSS)-compliant markets help?

Ever since the adoption of the 2015 Sustainable Development Agenda, the global development community has worked towards achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, set forth by the United Nations. However, progress has been cut short, or even worse, reversed, due to multiple external shocks, like the COVID-19 pandemic and the Ukraine-Russia crisis. This has further alarmed the world on issues like extreme poverty, food insecurity, and an ever-widening gap between the rich and the poor. Despite multiple

Empowering Women is Smart Economics and Pathway Towards the SDGs

Improving gender equality has many positive impacts on individuals and also on society at large. Empowering women in the economy and closing gender gaps are key to achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. When more women work, economies grow! Empowering women to become full economic citizens has grown importance in the work of the United Nations Forum on Sustainability Standards (UNFSS). The underlying point of reference as Mr. Santiago Fernandez de Cordoba, Senior Economist andUNFSS Coordinator, UNCTAD prescribed as a

Voluntary Sustainability Standards for People, Planet, and Prosperity: Focus on G20

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed systemic fragilities across the globe. The pandemic has not only been a global health crisis but also has severely impacted the global economy and financial markets. The pandemic has affected people’s livelihoods, health and disrupted food systems. Significant reductions in income, rise in unemployment, and disruption in services have been common aftermath, especially in the developing countries. Fig.1 International trade plunged as the virus spread (Source:

The Circular Economy: Can Voluntary Sustainability Standards play a role in bidding adieu to the ‘take, make, waste’ model?

The last three decades have witnessed a worsening of the world’s environmental problems. The global use of natural resources has more than tripled since 1970 and continues to grow, pushing climate stability and ecosystems worldwide to the limits of their resilience. This reflects a pertinent need to shift towards sustainable consumption and production pathways. But how can we achieve that? A circular economy might provide some solutions. While there is no singular definition of a circular economy, it most

UNFSS 2021 Activity Highlights

Another eventful year has come to an end. None of the successes we achieved during the year happened by chance. The UNFSS Secretariat thank you for all your support for making things happen, despite a difficult year due to the pandemic. As we look forward to welcoming 2022 with you, allow us to take this opportunity to highlight some of our key activities in 2021. Academic Advisory Council (AAC) Annual Meeting In November 2021, the UNFSS co-organized the Academic Advisory Council (AAC)

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Podcast feature: Voluntary sustainability standards and trade in developing countries 

Globalization has brought profound changes to international trade over the last 50 years. Value chains are now spread around the globe and are becoming more complex. Today, about US $8 trillion worth of world trade goes through Global Value Chains (GVCs), accounting for nearly 70% of the total share of global trade. According to UNCTAD’s research, majority of the developing countries are increasingly participating in GVCs. As a result, the developing-country share in global value-added trade increased from 20%

Research Frontiers on the Adoption, Impact and Effectiveness of Voluntary Sustainability Standards

The United Nations introduced the word “sustainability” into common usage, and defined sustainable development as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”- Brundtland Report, 1987. The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) has broadened the scope and premise of the strategies for development with full considerations for social factors as it includes employment, education, nutrition, health, income distribution, poverty reduction, basic needs, the environment. However, there cannot

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Fostering Sustainable Trade in the APEC Region

On 14 September 2021, the UNFSS co-organized a 3-day Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Stakeholder VSS Awareness Workshop together with the APEC Secretariat and the Department of Standards Malaysia. APEC is comprised of 21 member economies which aims to create greater prosperity for the people of the region by promoting balanced, inclusive, sustainable and secure growth and by accelerating regional economic integration. Against this background, the UNFSS has been a close partner to deliberate the

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Leveraging collaboration, transparency, and fairness to enhance VSS effectiveness in achieving sustainable development

On 30 August 2021, UNCTAD launched its report “Better Trade for Sustainable Development: The Role of Voluntary Sustainability Standards” in a webinar chaired by Ms. Isabelle Durant, Acting Secretary-General of UNCTAD. Ms. Durant highlighted the need to pursue development under the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) umbrella. While she indicated the role of international trade as a means of implementation for the achievement of the SDGs, she referred, as well, to the adverse social and environmental impacts resulted

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Better Trade for Sustainable Development: The Role of Voluntary Sustainability Standards

The expansion of international trade in the last decades, although it has brought economic and societal benefits across the globe, sometimes led to failure in addressing the adverse social and environmental impacts. Sustainable trade takes place when these adverse impacts are mitigated, and the international exchange of goods and services yields positive social, economic and environmental benefits [Read: Minding the gap to foster better trade for sustainable development]. For trade to become a ‘sustainable engine’, one approach