There is significant overlap between voluntary sustainability standards and Sustainable Development Goals, pointing a way for business to bolster efforts to implement the SDGs, according to a new report.
The study, Linking Voluntary Standards to Sustainable Development Goals, was prepared jointly by ITC, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the European University Institute, the University of Amsterdam and the German Development Institute. It marks the most in-depth research to date on specific links between voluntary sustainability standards and the SDGs at the centre of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable development.
The report found that voluntary sustainability standards relevant to the SDGs are widely available among countries and economic sectors. Going beyond minimum legal standards set by governments, such standards seek to reduce adverse environmental and social effects of business activity.
The standards reflect demands of consumers and other stakeholders for more sustainable forms of production, particularly in global supply chains.
Two hundred or more voluntary standards are linked to SDG 2 (Zero Hunger), SDG 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth), SDG 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities) and SDG 12 (Responsible Production and Consumption), according to the report.
There is also potential to align voluntary standards better to other SDGs. These include SDG 16 (Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions), SDG 15 (Life on Land), SDG 5 (Gender Equality), SDG 9 (Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure), SDG 7 (Affordable and Clean Energy) and SDG 10 (Reduced Inequalities).
'This innovative research provides a clear picture of how businesses can work towards SDG targets by adopting voluntary sustainability standards,' said Pamela Coke-Hamilton, ITC Executive Director, and Mukhisa Kituyi, UNCTAD Secretary-General, in an introduction to the report.
'We trust that the findings in the report will be a useful resource for standard-setting organizations, policymakers, suppliers and lead firms - as they strive to bring together the public and private sectors and promote sustainable, responsible supply chains in pursuit of the Sustainable Development Goals,' they added.
The data in this report are from the Standards Map database from the Trade for Sustainable Development Programme of ITC. Researchers tracked the extent to which sustainable practices promoted by voluntary standards align with the targets contained in the SDGs. Publication of the report was made possible by the support of the Swiss and German governments.