19 Oct 2020

Mapping Voluntary Sustainability Standards against the Sustainable Development Goals

2020 sgd contribution vss

A new study, Linking Voluntary Standards to Sustainable Development Goals, maps how Voluntary Sustainability Standards are contributing to the Sustainable Development Goals. Highlighting their potential as a reliable partner for private and public sector alike.

The study was developed jointly by the International Trade Center (ITC), the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the European University Institute, the University of Amsterdam, and the German Development Institute. It aims to assess the extent different Voluntary Sustainability Standards are contributing to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly given the increase in use of such schemes in the past years.

It highlights how Voluntary Sustainability Standards can be an ally for businesses and governments alike. For example, it states ‘Companies can realize cost efficiencies by applying resource-efficient and circular practices, increasing business resilience by meeting buyer (and at times investor) requirements, while anticipating stricter regulations.’ It is worth mentioning that, over the past decade, market coverage of these standards has grown considerably. This means we now see private sustainability standards applying to millions of farms, plantations, and factories worldwide.

Overall Results

Out of our scope of work and standards available, five were included in the study (Small Producer Organisations, Gold, Textile, Hired Labour and Trader). According to it, the three SDGs most widely covered by Voluntary Sustainability Standards in general are SDG 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth), SDG 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production) and SDG 2 (Zero Hunger).

We are glad to see reflected many schemes driving efforts towards these three SDGs, given their direct impact to the livelihood of farmers and workers. We are also pleased to see agriculture as the sector most covered by voluntary standards, by a significant margin. In the study it is reflected that at Fairtrade we actively contribute to SDGs 8, 12 and 2, as well as focusing a great deal of our efforts towards reaching SDG 1 (No Poverty), among others.

Links to the SDGs by Voluntary Sustainability Standards
Image from ITC study shows to what extent the different SDGs are covered

Globally, we see parts of South and Central America lagging behind (with the exception of Brazil) in terms of impact, and the same in Africa. Many of the products Fairtrade certifies are produced in these areas, and will continue to drive impact via our strong network of Producer Networks and producer organizations, providing localized initiatives and support.

Fairtrade welcomes the study’s showing that our standards for small producer organisations and hired-labour actually contribute to all SDGs. The remaining Fairtrade Standards focus on various SDGs, notably the contribution of our Textile standard to SDG 8 (Economic Development and Decent Work) and our Gold standard to SDG 10 (Reduced Inequalities.)

As we move forward with our 2021-2025 Global Strategy, the SDGs are a compass to guide our efforts and we hope they represent the same for other Voluntary Sustainability Standards as to ensure we all strive in the same direction.

At Fairtrade we focus on a broad range of issues as to be able to support farmer and workers worldwide. From living wage, to human rights and the environment. We believe in a holistic approach which includes strong standards, but also support on the ground and training opportunities, among others to drive change. If you are interested in learning more about the impact of Fairtrade activities -beyond standards- please visit our dedicated section on our website.