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REPORT: Scaling up Voluntary Sustainability Standards through Sustainable Public Procurement and Trade Policy (UNFSS, 2020)

  • Published on October 30, 2020
Market competitiveness transformations through public policy setting

The United Nations Forum on Sustainability Standards (UNFSS) launched its 4th Flagship report on ‘Upscaling Voluntary Sustainability Standards through Sustainable Public Procurement and Trade Policy’ that is now available for download.


This report was developed through a collaborative effort between UNFSS, an initiative of 5 UN agencies- FAO, UNIDO, UNCTAD, ITC and UNEP and the Leuven Centre for Global Governance, University of Leuven, with the support of the Flanders Research Foundation (FWO) and the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO). 
This report focuses on the adoption of Voluntary Sustainability Standards (VSS) by referring to the degree of its uptake by producers or firms along the global value chains. It explores how government spending can drive the uptake of voluntary sustainability standards (VSS) – special rules that guarantee that the products we buy do not hurt the environment and the people that make them.


Why is this relevant?

COVID-19 has obstructed economic growth, increased unemployment, exposed inequalities, and raised poverty and global hunger, rolling back the progress made in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). While government spending and relief is at the heart of the COVID-19 response, there needs to also be a long-term focus on ensuring action today does not scupper our sustainability goals. More strategic public procurement can help.
Public procurement represents, on average 12% of GDP in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries and up to 30% of GDP in developing countries.
But VSS adoption rates vary significantly by country. A sustained effort by governments to use sustainable public procurement could change the market dynamics towards sustainability.


What you will learn?

Integrating sustainable development in public procurement and national trade policy is a starting point. The analysis shows that VSS adoption rates are more feasible for open economies with diversified economic sectors such as those that belong to large developed and middle-income countries. 
True adoption of VSS standards by lower-income nations requires a relatively well-functioning government system, government capacity and the ability to meet the global demand for products. 
The report also shines a light on how poorer people and producers struggle to meet VSS certifications due to time, cost, and capacity challenges. They get “stuck at the bottom” while wealthier producers and nations can more easily certify and invest in systems that support certification. 


Read the full report here!

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