Sustainable Trade and VSS Dialogue

Since their emergence in the late 20th century, Voluntary Sustainability Standards (VSS) were heralded as innovative new instruments to help meet some of the most pressing sustainability challenges. Today, VSS have been propelled from specialty niches into mainstream markets due to rising demand among consumers, buyers, and producers.

They have become an important aspect of trade to address socio-economic, environmental, and food safety concerns. In recent years, trade policy has evolved in terms of content increasingly incorporating non-trade objectives, such as sustainable development provisions. This has led to the emergence of the concept of “sustainable trade”. Sustainable trade can help to foster more sustainable value chains, while mitigating the crises as firms across the globe seek new ways to supply goods in a highly unstable market.

By incorporating sustainability standards in trade policy, the ambition of VSS could complement government action such as providing governments with a tool to tackle pressing sustainability issues.

In the interest of this vision, UNFSS will hold a hybrid dialogue on “Sustainable Trade and VSS”. The objective of this dialogue is

(1) To provide a spotlight for high-level practitioners to evaluate and validate the need to pursue Sustainable Trade,

(2) To explore the opportunities and challenges of using VSS to make trade more sustainable,

(3) To strategize the building blocks of Sustainable Trade in cross-border operations.

This dialogue will be steered by findings of the UNFSS 5th Flagship Report titled, “Voluntary Sustainability Standards (VSS), Sustainability Agenda, and Developing Countries: Opportunities and Challenges”, which has laid out the multiple roles of VSS to advance the sustainability agenda in developing countries and assess the opportunities and challenges associated with VSS uptake.


14:45-14:55 Registration

15:00-15:15 Opening Remarks and Setting the Scene

Axel Marx,
Deputy Director at the Leuven Centre for Global Governance Studies, KU Leuven
Santiago Fernandez de Cordoba,
Chief VSS Program, UN Forum for Sustainability Standards, UNCTAD

15:15-15:55 Panel Discussion on Sustainable Trade and VSS


Moderator: Bernard Hoekman
Professor, and Director, Global Economics at the Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies, European University Institute
Bernd Lange
Chair of the European Parliament’s Committee on International Trade
Symone Betton Nayo
Jamaica’s Ambassador-designate to Belgium and Head of Mission to the EU
Kristin Komives
Director of Programmes, ISEAL Alliance

15:55-16:00 Closing Statement

16:00 onwards- Reception



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Sustainable Trade and VSS Dialogue