Trade Policy Development > United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)

Providing information and analysis on voluntary sustainability standards

Participation in the Steering Committee of the United Nations Forum on Sustainability Standards (UNFSS) which is a newly established platform that seeks to ensure that developing countries are not effectively excluded from export markets by engaging them in the dialogue on voluntary sustainability standards (VSS).

The UNFSS has a particular focus on the potential value of VSS as tools for developing countries to achieve their sustainable development goals. At the same time, the UNFSS addresses the potential trade or development obstacles these standards may create, with particular emphasis on their impact on small-scale producers and less developed countries. The UNFSS aims to facilitate a dialogue for the exchange of knowledge on these issues and provide a forum for intergovernmental actors to communicate among each other and engage with key target groups (producers, traders, consumers, standard setters, certification bodies, trade diplomats, relevant NGOs and researchers) to address their information needs and influence concerned stakeholders. The UNFSS will deliver analytical and empirical work and assist – upon specific request from developing countries – with analysis of VSS in their country’s context and in implementing UNFSS recommendations.

As discussions on private standards in other related international trade fora have not progressed significantly, UNFSS will work towards filling this gap by analyzing the impact of VSS and required strategies to pro-actively address VSS, with a country as well as sector specific analytical approach and by providing scientifically based information about costs, benefits and impacts. UNFSS will also explicitly deal with the trade and development concerns regarding VSS and some systemic standard issues, such as, ensuring they are scientifically based, are proportionate to the real risk they address, and that the burden of compliance is distributed fairly.