Challenges inherent to VSS adoption and use bring up underlying risks and issues that need to be addressed nationally, from a global perspective. Policy Dialogue is essential to consider all available tools to help vulnerable actors overcome VSS-related challenges.
UNCTAD supports the facilitation of Voluntary Sustainability Standards (VSS) in developing countries because they can improve access to more profitable markets. In this way, VSS can help grow the economies of developing countries which, in turn, leads to social development and environmental sustainability – as well as positively contributing to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
But complying to Voluntary Sustainability Standards can be a big challenge, especially for smallholder farms and other small-scale businesses. This is because they tend to be costly and complex, and often people don’t know enough about them.
So UNCTAD aims to:
- Increase the ability of countries to boost green exports, and do so sustainably
- Establish a platform on Voluntary Sustainability Standards that leads to better communication and coordination among stakeholders
- Equip countries with better knowledge on Voluntary Sustainability Standards so they can use them strategically
Fostering Green Exports – multi-stakeholder meetings
As part of this project, UNCTAD organized multi-stakeholder meetings in all participating countries. These meetings provided a space for all value chain actors to share experiences and information related to VSS and green exports, and debate about, and eventually agree on, corresponding action plans. Ultimately such meetings allow for stakeholders to gain understanding of the impact VSS on exports and sustainable development, and to improve their capacity to jointly design, assess and implement strategic options to leverage VSS to develop sustainable exports.
Other VSS-Related Policy Dialogue
UNFSS International Convention on Sustainable Trade and Standards (ICSTS)
The ICSTS creates awareness on the challenges and opportunities of VSS schemes such that the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) becomes the central reason to comply with VSS. It also provides a space for national and local stakeholders to participate in international dialogues that are strongly supported by the United Nations, particularly the five UN agencies behind UNFSS- FAO, ITC, UNCTAD, UN Environment and UNIDO.
VSS Academic Advisory Council
The Academic Advisory Council (AAC) is a multi-disciplinary academic expert exchange platform that brings together the knowledge and different theoretical approaches of VSS and their impact on developing countries. The AAC is established to function as a think-tank which is composed of renowned academic experts from around the globe with a wide variety of academic backgrounds, ranging from public international law, global governance, international political economy, economics and public management, to human rights and sustainability studies. This type of multi-disciplinary approach reflects the implicit knowledge of the complexity and multi-faceted nature of analyzing VSS effectiveness and the challenges associated therewith.
Ad-Hoc UNCTAD Expert Meeting on VSS
UNCTAD holds several ad-hoc expert meetings on VSS to discuss and validate on-going projects among experts in the field.
The last expert meeting on “Assessing Stakeholders’ Preparedness to Voluntary Sustainability Standardsis” for example was to brainstorm the benefits and shortcomings of the structure, architecture, usefulness and adaptability of the VSS perception toolkit.