Research & Analysis

Research & Analysis

Research and Analysis is essential to support policy dialogue and policy recommendations with evidence.

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 Case Studies

Developing countries in Asia and the Pacific face similar challenges in seizing the opportunities offered by VSS to meet the growing demand for sustainably produced goods. UNCTAD has worked with three participating countries in the region to help them build their capacity towards adopting VSS for their production of green exports of:

• sustainable coconut oil for Vanuatu and the Philippines;

• and organic coffee for Lao PDR.

Philippines - Virgin Coconut Oil

Using the VSS Assessment Toolkit designed under this project, UNCTAD conducted a reality-check to develop policy options for the Philippine virgin coconut oil (VCO) value chain to effectively respond to the growing demand for the adoption of sustainable practices, which contributes to improving market opportunities and country’s green exports.

Based on the conclusions of this study, UNCTAD supported the establishment of a “Technical Working Group (TWG) on Organic Certification of Virgin Coconut Oil” in the Philippines, which held its first meeting in November 2019.

Building upon UNCTAD’s findings and the conclusions of its first meeting, the TWG is due to adopt a VCO National Action Plan in support of the Philippines Export Development Plan (PEDP) 2018-2022 at its second meeting in 2020.

This country case study was conducted in partnership with the Philippines Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA).

Vanuatu - Coconut Oil

Using the VSS Assessment Toolkit designed under this project, UNCTAD conducted a reality-check to develop policy options for the Vanuatu coconut oil value chain to viably enter green or organic markets in a manner that contributes to inclusive and sustainable development.

Building on the findings of this assessment, UNCTAD supported Vanuatu’s multi-stakeholder platform in organizing the first Vanuatu Coconut Summit, which was held in October 2019 and led to the adoption of an action plan in support of the Vanuatu National Coconut Strategy 2016-2025.

This country case study was conducted in partnership with the Department of Industry in the Ministry of Tourism, Trade, Industry, Commerce and Ni-Vanuatu Business (MTTIB) and in coordination with the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Forestry, Fishery and Biosecurity (MALFFB).

Lao PDR- Coffee

To address the challenges associated with organic certification, UNCTAD conducted a reality-check of Lao People’s Democratic Republic’s state of play in the sector of organic agriculture. Using the VSS Assessment Toolkit designed under this project, the Lao coffee value chain was selected as a case study for this purpose. As part of this process, UNCTAD analyzed the business model based on buyer-producer trust of a local cooperative engaged in organic production, as compared to the third-party certification business model commonly found elsewhere.

Findings of this study contributed to feed the discussions of the 7th edition of the Lao Organic Agriculture Forum, serving as the national multi-stakeholder platform for the Lao organic sector. The event was held in November 2019 and resulted in an action plan to upgrade Lao’s organic agriculture strategy to the national agenda.

This country case study was conducted in partnership with the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MoAF) and the Ministry of Industry and Commerce (MoIC) of Lao People’s Democratic Republic.

Other UNCTAD VSS-Related Studies

The Trade Impact of Voluntary Sustainability Standards: A review of empirical evidence

Santiago Fernandez de Cordoba and Niematallah E.A. Elamin highlights the significance of transparency in terms of data availability for Voluntary Sustainability Standards (VSS) given the current lack of evidence in this area. Find out the possible reasons behind the lack of studies in this field and way forward for future research.

Download Full Paper here

Through National Green Export Reviews (NGERs) UNCTAD responds to growing demand in developing countries and countries with transition economies for assessments of national potential to advance the development of green sectors in order to generate new employment and export opportunities while promoting sustainable development. Within these technical assistance projects, UNCTAD works in a close partnership with interested countries through an interactive national stakeholder process to first identify their most internationally competitive green sectors, and then to design and implement policies and to establish regulatory and institutional frameworks, as well as cooperative G2B and B2B actions, to strengthen the capacity, efficiency and further enhance the competitiveness of these sectors.

As of June 2017, UNCTAD has engaged in NGERs with Ecuador, Vanuatu, Morocco, Ethiopia, Oman, Madagascar, Lebanon, Moldova and Senegal. While several of these projects have reached completion, many remain ongoing. NGERs for Angola and Armenia are in preparation.

To date, financial support for NGERs has been provided by UNCTAD and the United Nations Development Account under project 1415L. Senegal’s NGER is mainly funded through a grant from the Islamic Development Bank, which also provides substantive support to the project.

For more information on NGERs please consult the following:
 NGER Brief

>>Visit NGER Page

UNFSS publishes a twice-yearly flagship report on diverse topics to do with Voluntary Sustainability Standards (VSS), our mission and activities, for our stakeholders from the public and private sectors. Visit https://unfss.org/home/flagship-publication/

UNFSS have been involved in several adhoc research projects such as the National VSS Studies for country specific cases.

India VSS Story

BioTrade Experiences in Colombia and Indonesia: Connecting Sustainable Development Goals 15 and 16

Biodiversity is life’s foundation as it provides resources for basic human needs in terms of food, fuel, medicine, shelter, transportation, as well as environmental services such as protecting water sources. It is also important for businesses as natural raw materials enable the development of products and services, or are used for recreation or cultural activities, which also generate income for local communities.

Around 1.6 billion people depend on forests and non-timber forest products (NTFPs) for their livelihoods (Secretariat of the CBD, 2015a). Many households in Asia, derived as much as 50–80 per cent of their annual household income from NTFPs, namely from biodiversity resources (Secretariat of the CBD, 2014). In the Latin American region some 75 per cent of households depend directly on biodiversity to meet their basic needs for food and water as well as to preserve their culture (CAF, 2015).

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