Sustainability standards and economic concerns: academic roundtable discussion

In this third academic roundtable as part of the UNFSS Academic Advisory Council – Evidensia partnership, we focus on the economics of voluntary sustainability standards (VSS) and various dimensions of related impacts.

VSS can be catalysts or barriers to market access and trade. While standards could lead to increased exports, the expansion and rising influence of VSS have become a growing concern for suppliers, particularly those in low-income countries. The chief argument for voluntary standards having a harmful impact on market access and international trade is the burden of compliance costs. On the other hand, it is argued that the use of VSS could improve workers’ well-being, and employment conditions. VSS are also claimed to positively impact productivity, product quality, transferring knowledge, and creating innovation and better practices. And facilitate smallholders access to finance.

Key questions that this dialogue will focus on are:

– What is the role of VSS in transforming the GVCs structure and participation?

– From a developing and least developed countries perspective, what are the determinants of VSS being catalysts or barriers to trade? And how to enhance their favorable impact on trade?

– On which economic dimensions would VSS be a challenge to address, and which of these dimensions can VSS make a difference and/or should prioritize?

– What are some of the main knowledge gaps and where we need more research/type of research?


-Santiago Fernandez de Cordoba, Senior Economist and UNFSS Coordinator, UNCTAD

-Bernard Hoekman, Director, Global Economics at the Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies, European University Institute

-Stefano Ponte, Professor, Centre for Business and Development Studies (CBDS), Copenhagen Business School

-Thomas Dietz, Professor, University of Muenster

-Mercedes Aráoz Fernández, Professor of Economics, Universidad del Pacifico, and Former Second Vice President of Peru