United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO)

UNIDO’s interventions with respect to Voluntary Sustainability Standards (VSS) help businesses – particularly small and medium-sized enterprises – to achieve and prove conformity with market requirements, compete on international markets and connect to global value chains.

Its work spans policy and governance advice to the development of quality infrastructure institutions and conformity assessment services, including the support of the private sector in achieving compliance with international public and private standards and technical regulations.

These actions are a response to the fact that global trade increasingly takes place within value chains, and in a system that is governed by multilateral trade rules such as World Trade Organization (WTO) agreements on behind-the-border regulations like technical barriers to trade (TBT) and sanitary and phytosanitary measures (SPS).

In addition, the quality and compliance of products and services with market requirements and standards on consumer health and safety, environmental impact, labour conditions and/or sustainability (including voluntary standards), have become key elements of competitiveness in global business relations.

UNIDO considers VSS to be a major tool for opening opportunities for the integration of business operators into global markets and value chains. They have the potential to contribute to export-led growth, wealth creation and poverty reduction. If properly used by the countries, VSS can also be an effective tool to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

UNIDO forms partnerships with key players in VSS. A strategic alliance with ISEAL has resulted in promoting sustainability standards through major global events such as in Colombia (2016) and in Indonesia (2017).

UNIDO is proud to be a member of the UNFSS and continues to contribute to the work on VSS in its project countries, such its Safe+ quality programme for the cosmetics sector in Colombia and the SMART-Fish Indonesia programme.

Video on Quality and Standards produced for the Donor Conference (2016)

Colombia – Safe+ Quality Programme

Guide to Private Standards: “Making Private Standards Working For You”, 2010



Global Value Chains and Development, 2015



Other publications on advancing economic competitiveness


UNIDO VSS Related Projects

By 2032, Colombia seeks to be recognized as a world leader in the production and export of cosmetics manufactured using natural ingredients. However, to export to international markets, the sector needs to meet the technical requirements in terms of quality throughout the entire value chain. Closing this gap is the objective of Safe+.

UNIDO supports Colombia’s efforts to integrate into the regional and multilateral trading system by enhancing its trade capacities and performance. This is carried out through a quality programme aimed at the cosmetics sector’s productive chain. The main outcomes of UNIDO’s intervention have been:

   Strengthening the National Quality Infrastructure (NQI).

   Fostering Colombia’s integration into the regional and multilateral trading systems.

   Improving the cosmetic sector’s capacity to comply with international quality, private and sustainable standards.

Colombia’s natural cosmetics sector needs to meet the technical requirements of the countries to which Colombia wants to export. For instance, the biggest market for natural and organic cosmetics is Europe, which currently has over 20 private standards for such products. Colombia’s natural cosmetics products will need to comply with international quality, private and sustainability standards of such target export markets.

The SMART-Fish Indonesia programme seeks to strengthen the trade capacity of selected value chains of the Indonesian fisheries sector to increase exports, while ensuring the preservation of biodiversity by promoting sustainability standards.

The project organized a series of workshops on eco-labels and on the compliance of the supply chain in the tuna sector to meet the Marine Stewardship Council’s Chain of Custody (CoC) standard.

Other workshops were focused on a draft Marine Stewardship Council-Agricultural Stewardship Council seaweed standard with the participation of scientists from the Asian-Pacific region, to discuss and ensure that Indonesia’s seaweed industry interests are accommodated in the standard.

In addition, the project, in collaboration with the Jakarta Fisheries University and the University of Tasmania, assisted in strengthening university courses on aquaculture, fishing techniques and engineering with sustainability, innovation, and productivity aspects.

The project also supported Indonesia’s Good Aquaculture Practices programme in joining the Global Sustainable Seafood Initiative Pilot testing programme, which focuses on food safety as well as on environmental and social issues.