The UNCTAD Approach to

Voluntary Sustainability Standards

What We do

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

Research & Analysis

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


Policy Dialogue

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.


Inter-Agency Collaborations

UNCTAD is the secretariat of the United Nations Forum on Sustainability Standards (UNFSS), an intiative of 5 UN Agencies – FAO, UNIDO, UNCTAD, ITC and UN Environment.

United Nations Conference on Trade and Development

Palais des Nations, 8-14,
Av. de la Paix, 1211 Geneva 10, 
T: +41 22 917 1234
F: +41 22 917 0057