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December : SA Spotlight on Voluntary Sustainability Standards

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3 December, 2019

SA Spotlight on Voluntary Sustainability Standards

Panellists: Dr Achna Negi, Professor in International Trade, Nehru University, India, Lorena Jaramillo Castro, UNCTAD, Sixolile Ngcobo, Commission on Gender Equality, South AfricaPanellists: Dr Achna Negi, Professor in International Trade, Nehru University, India, Lorena Jaramillo Castro, UNCTAD, Sixolile Ngcobo, Commission on Gender Equality, South Africa


With 500 eco labels in 199 countries, across 25 industries, US$ 50 billion total sustainable production value and organic product sales of US$ 70 billion, sustainable production is not only better for the environment but is also big business. **

And according to research 66% of consumers are willing to pay a premium for sustainable products. **

Our FSC® Marketing Manager, Gerard Busse recently attended the South African Initiative on Voluntary Sustainability Standards Conference held in Pretoria earlier this month.

The conference was co-hosted by the United Nations Forum on Sustainability Standards (UNFSS), The German Development Institute and its Managing Global Governance Program and the South African Bureau of Standards. UNFSS is a collaborative inter-agency United Nations organisation combining the expertise of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), United Nations Environmental Program, International Trade Centre (ITC) and the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO).

With the increasing growth in voluntary sustainability standards (VSS) there has been an increasing need to establish a platform for national and international dialogue amongst multi-stakeholders to address issues related to VSS. The German Development Institute and its Managing Global Governance (MGG) Program has been instrumental in doing this through MGG's six partner countries: Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Mexico and South Africa.

So, what are Voluntary Sustainability Standards (VSS's):

  • VSS's are requirements that are set by a private standards organisational entities, normally NGO's, where producers are asked to meet certain environmental, social and economic objectives.
  • These objectives may include human rights, equitable profit share, decent working conditions, conservation of natural resources, biodiversity, community upliftment and other sustainable practices.
  • Products that are produced according VSS may come at a price premium.
  • VSS's may facilitate trade or act as a barrier for market access to export. To prevent being barriers, VSS systems should do more to actively support suppliers and increase transparency.
  • Products produced according to VSS may be used by major brand owners and or retailers as effective marketing tools.


The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals, also referred to as the Sustainable Development Goals are a universal commitment to ending poverty, protecting the planet and ensuring human well-being. These goals also recognise international trade as an engine for inclusive economic growth and poverty reduction. * South Africa has embedded the SDG's in its national development priorities and is also signatory to the Africa Union's Agenda 2063 - both these drive South Africa's implementation of the SDG's. A key instrument to implement the SDG's in South Africa is the Government's Bio-economy strategy, which has the goal for bio-economy sector to be a significant contributor to the country's economy and GDP in 2030.

As demonstrated by these contributions to 14 of these Goals and 40 targets, Forest Stewardship Council® is clearly a significant instrument for achieving the SDGs. Indeed, FSC is a relevant partner for all who seek to take action - based on legal and customary rights, and the engagement of all interested parties - to support sustainable natural resources management and the achievement of social and economic objectives.

Standards that uphold not just the quality of products but also consider the sustainability aspects of the production process can be the key to unlock new markets for exporters but also to uphold the competitiveness of domestic markets.  However, this needs to happen in the context of governments' increasingly embedding sustainability standards to achieve emission reduction goals in support of the Paris Climate Agreement. VSS's must be viewed as a catalyst in achieving this by aligning sourcing and production to the SDG's.

 The goals of this VSS conference was to increase public awareness on the potential of VSS, support the implementation of SDG's and initiate the momentum to establish a national Platform on VSS in South Africa.

There is still some way to go before these objectives are achieved. What the conference did achieve was to bring various stakeholders together including government, standards bodies from various countries, relevant United Nation's agency representatives, universities, corporates and non-government organisations and voluntary standards organisations such as the FSC®   and  WWF to discuss a range of issues.  Awareness of the importance of VSS by the various stakeholders was largely achieved. Understanding the importance of empowering multiple stakeholders to support for the implementation of the SDG's also largely achieved and how VSS was a catalyst for this. In terms of the final objective of initiating the momentum to establish a National Platform on VSS in South Africa - some work still to be done but solid groundwork laid for towards this end soon.

Interview: Dr Ariel Hernandez, German Institute interviews Dr Manish Pande, Quality Council India on their experience in incorporating VSS’s onto their Quality Council Platform
Interview: Dr Ariel Hernandez, German Institute interviews Dr Manish Pande, Quality Council India on their
experience in incorporating VSS's onto their Quality Council Platform


Source:

The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)
Gerard Busse
Marketing Manager - South Africa
g.busse@fsc.org

Mobile : +27 (0) 83 795 0542