Voluntary Sustainability Standards and BioTrade: Is there a connection?

This report provides a synthesis of the connections between selected Voluntary Sustainability Standards (VSS) and the UNCTAD BioTrade Principles and Criteria (P&C).

The growth in VSS-compliant production has been increasing, and in some sectors, even exceeding that of conventional production. While VSS have proliferated across multiple sectors, their role in trade and biodiversity still demands greater exploration.

The BioTrade initiative, through its P&C, promotes sustainable trade and investment in biodiversity-based products and services. While these are two of the tools that can be used by public and private sector actors to mitigate their negative impacts on biodiversity, there has been little understanding of the alignment between these two tools. This is important to understand the opportunities for mutual recognition and support and to avoid the proliferation of tools.

The report aims to analyze the alignment between the selected VSS with the specific biodiversity-related objectives targeted by the BioTrade P&C. For the analysis, the data for the VSS is collected through the ITC Standards Map, and the VSS criteria categories within them are mapped to the BioTrade P&C.

Through examining the links between BioTrade Minimum Eligibility Requirements (MER) and P&C and selected VSS, the report explores areas where these can be mutually supportive for advancing sustainable trade of biodiversity-based products to achieve objectives like biodiversity conservation and protection.

The analysis indicates that overall, all eleven selected VSS have links with the BioTrade P&C and the terrestrial and marine MER. This suggests that both VSS and BioTrade are not competitive but are complementary tools to promote trade, provide diversification opportunities, and support the transfer of knowledge and technology as well as empower consumers and incentivize practitioners to make informed, responsible and sustainable choices towards key priorities like the achievement of the SDGs.