A new report published by WWF and ISEAL today indicates how businesses can contribute strongly to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and unlock new market opportunities by using credible voluntary sustainability standards to transform entire sectors and supply chains.

The report frames the SDGs as “quickly becoming a universal language for governments, businesses and NGOs to engage each other around shared sustainability aims, commitments, outcomes and impacts. They provide a holistic framework that allows, and indeed requires, businesses to contribute to their achievement over the next 15 years.” It also outlines the responsibility the private sector has to contributing to the SDGs – especially “large multinational companies, [who] have a key role to play in addressing social and environmental issues in their own supply chains and the wider sector they are part of. Credible sustainability standards offer businesses a ready-made tool to do so.”

The report shows how sustainability standards can help ‘scale-up’ efforts to achieve the SDGs: “Credible sustainability standards and certification schemes are a key tool in market transformation and its contribution to the SDGs. Credible standards provide guidance on what better production, or “sustainability for the mainstream”, looks like in a concrete and practical way, focused on a specific process, sector or industry. This helps businesses to address the biggest impacts in a specific sector. In doing so, a standard typically contributes across a number of SDGs.  By bringing together different actors (businesses, NGOs, governments, etc.), credible standards embody the multistakeholder, partnership approach which is central to the SDG agenda.”

Specific point on how standards can help businesses in moving towards the SDGs mentioned in the report include; “standards pioneer innovative solutions such as HCVs, traceability, living wage and others”, “standards provide a scalable solution, allowing companies to be part of a broader movement toward greater sustainability in their sector”, “standards can provide incentives to businesses that improve their sustainability practices, for example through more stable business relations between suppliers and buyers, by offering market access or in some cases through price premiums” and “standards improve transparency and traceability. They provide a framework for companies to monitor and report on progress toward sustainability goals, and the added security of better understanding their own supply chains.”