Standards and other criteria-based voluntary initiatives set rules for production and trade. Voluntary rules-based systems that integrate sustainable development objectives and participatory, inclusive, impartial and transparent governance form a pre-requisite for effective and credible application.
There are now more than 400 voluntary sustainability standards operating across the planet. As the demand and supply of standard compliant products grows so does the need to understand how voluntary sustainability standards are developing over time, both in terms of the systems they deploy and the market impacts they have.
To date, voluntary standards have shown a great deal of flexibility and ingenuity in attempting to meet these objectives in the international context. At the same time, the diversity of different structures and systems has remained relatively opaque to most stakeholders, including public policy-makers. Moreover, the fact that many such initiatives are often born out of small groups of collaborating partners can threaten their impartiality and the ability of other stakeholders to exercise input and influence. As a form of "de facto" trade policy, voluntary standards need, above all, to ensure participatory and inclusive governance in their design. The promotion of good governance among standards initiatives forms a key priority for IISD's work on standards.
Global Value Chain Policy Series: Environment
This paper, part of the Global Value Chain Policy Series, examines questions that arise at the intersection of environmental sustainability and global value chains.Read More
Can Sustainability Standards Help Protect the World’s Biodiversity?
Voluntary sustainability standards provide an opportunity to reduce agriculture's impact on biodiversity and promote best practices. On World Biodiversity Day, we interview IISD expert Vivek Voora, on on how standards can impact biodiversity.Read More
Standards and Biodiversity
The Standards and Biodiversity Report analyzes the criteria and market coverage of 15 major agricultural voluntary sustainability standards against key biodiversity parameters.Read More
Extracting the Voluntary Sustainability Standards Opportunity for Biodiversity Protection: The need for a dedicated policy response
Voluntary sustainability standards have a strong potential for supporting efforts to protect biological diversity. But policy makers will have to expand their role beyond mere supporters and users of such initiatives to that of watchdogs and regulators if this potential is to be realized.Read More
Throwing the Chocolate Bar Out with the Bathwater: How Cadbury’s transition to an in-house sustainability standard threatens the sustainability of the cocoa sector
This commentary explains how Cadbury’s recent decision to develop its own inhouse sustainability standard rather than continue to rely on Fairtrade International certification is a great step backwards for global cocoa sustainability.Read More
Voluntary Sustainability Standards and Biodiversity: Understanding the potential of agricultural standards for biodiversity protection
Voluntary sustainability standards offer an opportunity to reduce the biodiversity impacts of agriculture and to promote best practices, which can also improve yields and help to feed a growing population.Read More
Quantifying the Challenges of Adopting Sustainability Criteria for Biofuel Production
This case study examines the challenges associated with certifying the production of sustainable alternative fuels (SAFs) for the commercial aviation sector. It draws on interviews with producers who underwent certification for sustainable practices, a literature review on sustainability standards and certification processes, and personal communication with professionals from the aviation industry and academia.Read More
State of Sustainability Initiatives Review: Standards and the Blue Economy
This report examines market and performance trends of the nine most prevalent seafood certification schemes, including the Marine Stewardship Council, GLOBAL G.A.P. and Friend of the Sea.Read More
A Beef with Competition
Should the arrival of ethical beef at Earl’s restaurants be considered good news?Read More
The State of Sustainable Markets: Statistics and emerging trends 2015
IISD contributes to a joint report with ITC and FiBL on the State of Sustainable Markets. This joint report builds off of the IISD’s State of Sustainability Initiatives Review 2014 by reporting on the market performance of 14 voluntary sustainability standards across nine agricultural commodity sectors.Read More