About the 2019 Symposium

From evidence to action: what sustainability initiatives can learn from the experience of standards

18 June 2019, The Hague

Sustainability standards have far-reaching direct impacts, from guiding businesses in implementing sustainable practices, to supporting governments and businesses in meeting their sustainability commitments. Standards also have indirect, systemic impacts, like shaping government and private sector policies, raising consumer awareness and much more.

In recent years, a wealth of evidence has emerged about how sustainability standards are driving positive economic, social and environmental impacts: product quality improvements, better incomes, improved labour conditions, biodiversity conservation and more. Business case studies also show reduced operational costs, and improved reputations and market access.

Yet, not all studies are positive, and it is clear that impacts vary across contexts. This research provides learning opportunities for standard systems, but also has broader relevance for other supply chain sustainability initiatives. What can research and evidence tell us (or not) about the factors that limit the impacts of standards? What do these findings mean for standards, businesses and governments?

At the 2019 Global Sustainability Standards Symposium, we brought together leaders from the worlds of sustainability systems, business, government and civil society for a candid conversation about what we know and don't know about the impacts of sustainability standards.

Through presentations about the current state of evidence and recent innovations to deepen impacts, we explored and debated how to improve the effectiveness of market-driven solutions to problems like deforestation, rural poverty, and water stress.

The day ended with a networking reception to celebrate the launch of Evidensia – an online platform to facilitate access to evidence about the impacts of sustainability standards and other sustainability systems.

The Global Sustainability Standards Symposium was hosted in partnership with the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs.