Linking voluntary standards with Sustainable Development Goals

The UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the International Trade Centre (ITC), the European University Institute (EUI), the University of Amsterdam (UvA), and the German Development Institute (DIE) released a study that finds there is “significant overlap” between the SDGs and voluntary sustainability standards (VSS). The report highlights how businesses can support progress on the SDG targets by adopting VSS.
The report titled, ‘Linking Voluntary Standards to Sustainable Development Goals,’ uses data from ITC’s Standards Map database to track the extent to which sustainable practices promoted by VSS align with SDG targets. VSS are standards that go beyond minimum legal standards set by governments and aim to reduce adverse environmental and social effects from business activity as well as to respond to stakeholder and consumer demands. The report notes that proponents of VSS view voluntary standards as “among the tools that policymakers and business leaders can deploy to achieve sustainable development objectives through trade.” According to the report, there are over 270 VSS in 15 industries, 180 countries, and 600 product groups. Agriculture is the sector most covered by VSS, by a “significant margin,” followed by textiles and garments, consumer products, and processed foods.