unctad.org | Expert Meeting on Voluntary Sustainability Standards.
Expert Meeting on Voluntary Sustainability Standards.
27 September 2017
Room XXV
Geneva, Switzerland

Key Issues


In recent years, Voluntary Sustainability Standards (VSS) for commodities have had an increasing influence over export opportunities for developing countries in international trade. 

The exponential growth of VSS reflects an effort to capturing the growing consumer demand for “sustainability” and nature-based, healthy products. For developing-country producers, complying with VSS can increase marketability of green exports in the growing and lucrative “sustainability” and nature-based markets in the world. Complying with VSS can also advance sustainable production methods in the field, and contribute to the achievement of SDGs such as poverty elimination (SDG1), gender equality (SDG5), decent work (SDG8), sustainable production and consumption (SDG12), sustainable marine ecosystem (SDG15), and terrestrial ecosystems protection (SDG15). 


VSS may be catalytic to achieve win-win-win outcomes for trade-induced economic growth, environmental sustainability and social development. However, small producers and businesses in developing countries and theirs government are not always technically, financially or institutionally capable to reap the developmental benefits arising out of VSS. 

In this context, UNCTAD analyses potential effectiveness and development impact of VSS from the perspectives of developing-countries and conducts technical assistance towards improving their capacity in using VSS as a tool for achieving sustainable development. UNCTAD is also a member of the UNFSS which promotes dialogue, cooperation and partnership among UN agencies in support the development of VSS in a manner that enhances sustainable development in developing countries.

As part of a process of addressing VSS, a number of developing countries, supported by UNFSS, have recently decided to establish national multi-stakeholder VSS platforms with the aim to holistically discuss strategic approaches to VSS. The national platforms are national initiatives that reflect local priorities. 


Against the above background, UNCTAD is organizing the workshop to discuss VSS, their impact upon developing countries’ market access and sustainable development, and the contribution of national platforms for VSS. The workshop is also supported by UNFSS and DIE.

Key questions to be addressed will be:

  • How effective have VSS been for sustained, inclusive and sustainable trade?
  • What type of global partnership can help improve VSS’ effectiveness on inclusive and sustainable trade growth? 
  • What is the role of a national regulatory framework on VSS? 
  • What are key lessons from the formation of national multi-stakeholder platforms on VSS so far? 
  • Is there a need for global governance on VSS?


Contact:Ms.Miho Shirotori. E-mail: miho.shirotori@unctad.org, Telephone: +41 22 91 75556 Mr. Santiago Fernandez De Cordoba. E-mail; santiago.fernandez De Cordoba@unctad.org. Telephone: +41 22 91 75081
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In view of the current situation concerning the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), it has been decided in the public interest to postpone all UNCTAD meetings scheduled in May 2020, including those listed below. New dates will be communicated in due time.
  • Multi-year Expert Meeting on Trade, Services and Development (5 to 6 May 2020)
  • Short course for Geneva-based delegates - Para 166 (8 May 2020)
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