This study was conducted as part of a wider feasibility study for the 'Sustainable Trade and Innovation Centre' (STIC). It analyses the contribution of standards to sustainable development in terms of sustainability and market access, using case studies from food, forestry and tourism as examples. It focuses on voluntary environmental and social process standards, certification systems and codes, but does not discuss SPS standards.
The authors seek to reach beyond the rhetoric of sustainable trade – a developmental 'win-win-win' situation: providing trade opportunities which can simultaneously alleviate poverty and protect the environment - to explore the reality of standards for environmental and socially preferred products as tools to operationalise sustainable development.
The study finds that standards and associated codes and certification are proven means for seeking complementarities between trade and sustainable development; that private standards and certification initiatives are proven tools of private sector policy for sustainability; and that the standards-developing processes themselves also provide excellent opportunities for hearing different perspectives and thus facilitating organizational learning.
Several standardization issues of concern for developing countries’ exporters and providers of services are identified and discussed. To help overcome these issues, the study calls for the development of nonexclusionary standards, and for the participation of all stakeholders in the growing number of multi-stakeholder or partnership initiatives.
The report concludes with a set of recommendations for the establishment of a Sustainable Trade and Innovation Centre.