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  • The Trade for Sustainable Development (T4SD) is a partnership-based programme of the International Trade Centre (ITC) to provide comprehensive, verified and transparent information on voluntary sustainability standards via www.standardsmap.org. The main objective of T4SD is to strengthen the capacity of producers, exporters, policymakers, private and public buyers, to participate in more sustainable production and trade.

    Over the past years, voluntary sustainability standards have experienced unprecedented growth.  Accompanying this growth is the increasing need for information on such standards and transparency on their requirements and scope of operations. Producers and exporters often lack information when considering whether and how to engage into more sustainable production and trade practices. Also manufacturers, retailers and public procurement officials lack detailed information when making purchasing decisions. In addition, the increasing relevance of sustainability standards also necessitates analysis on the extent to which these standards actually address environmental, economic, labor and social issues. 


    Voluntary sustainability standards covered by the T4SD project include Fairtrade, Forest Stewardship Council, Marine Stewardship Council, and Bonsucro among others. Standards currently referenced into Standards Map are by no means composing an exhaustive list of voluntary sustainability standards, nor is there any intention to exclude non-referenced standards. On the contrary, the T4SD team is constantly engaging with additional standard organizations.  

    The T4SD Concept


    To address these information gaps and needs, ITC has developed a database containing comprehensive, comparable and verified information on voluntary sustainability standards. The T4SD Global Database allows homogenous information collection with a unique level of detail and consists of two main components: the “Standards Database” and the “Research Database”. The Standards Database covers all facets of standards systems, such as their contextual background, product and geographic scope, provisions and requirements (economic, social, and environmental, quality…), governance structure, stakeholders’ engagement, implementation mechanisms and verification systems, monitoring and evaluation activities, as well as their potential market outreach. The research database references over 250 research papers relating to the implementation of voluntary standards. These papers come from universities, research institutions and international organizations.

    Data collection is solely managed by ITC in a fully inter-active IT environment by means of a web-based data entry tool. ITC, acting as a global repository of information, provides access to the T4SD Global Database to its partners, which use this data to serve the needs of their own constituents. For instance, to date, the T4SD Global Database exports data to a Swiss-German external front-end website addressing the needs of public procurement and small and medium-sized enterprises called Kompass Nachhaltigkeit.

    By sharing information in such a way, ITC not only provides a common taxonomy against which data may be analysed, but also ensures that relevant and accurate data is disseminated to third-parties. Furthermore, the T4SD Global Database creates efficiencies by allowing external organizations to use its information, therefore avoiding duplication of resources. 

    The T4SD Programme & Partners


    The Standards Map website is the ITC front-end using the T4SD Global Database and is part of ITC’s suite of Market Analysis Tools. It is is accessible at www.standardsmap.org.

    Standards Map presents data contained in the T4SD Global Database to suit the needs of ITC’s core constituents, and enables them to:

    • Identify standard systems using thematic filters, customize searches using pre-set queries and review standards’ coverage and scope, cost and price estimates, support and assistance, governance and environmental, social, economic, ethical, traceability and quality requirements. Construct advanced queries or refine pre-set queries from a pool of over 700 criteria.  Furthermore, this website is available in English, Spanish and French.
    • Analyze and compare standards: Over 100 voluntary sustainability standards operating in more than 200 target markets, certifying products and services in over 60 economic sectors - including agriculture, forestry, fisheries, mining, textiles and manufactured products, among others.
    • Identify opportunities for product diversification and new niche markets: Make a comparative assessment of voluntary standards requirements and assess potential costs and benefits linked to the adoption of voluntary standards.
    • Review research on voluntary standards.
    • Visualize standards requirements and scope: Generate maps to view standards’ actual and potential geographical scope.
    • Impartial information: Standards Map is the only web platform providing information at such high level of detail. Standards’ data in the tool is verified according to a process including third party experts and the respective standard organizations. Standards Map does not make value judgments or ratings of standards.
    • Multi-lingual: English, Spanish, French and Portuguese versions of the website.


    T4SD also provides training to enhance users’ understanding not only of the Standards Map web tool, but also of voluntary sustainability standards. This provides producers and exporters in developing countries with information to allow them to weigh the costs and benefits of adopting voluntary standards.

    The training component of the project is designed to complement Standards Map and to maximize its value to producers, exporters and support organizations in developing countries. The current curriculum includes trainings on:

    • “Introduction to Voluntary Standards and the Standards Map Market Analysis Tool” 
    • “Detailed analysis and review of voluntary standards – a case study apparoach a pre-defined product/economic sector” 
    • “Training of Trainers course on the dissimenation of Standards Map” 


    T4SD is carrying out a review of the impacts of voluntary standards synthesizing the research on voluntary standards. The team published three out of four parts of this review integrating results from over 200 studies out of a total of over 800 studies that were reviewed. The analytical approach for the literature review is consistent throughout the four papers of the series and the papers focus on the following four topics:

    1. The impact of standards on globalvalue chains
    2. The impact of standards on producers in developing countries
    3. The interplay between public and private standards
    4. When do private standards work?

    Each paper is a stand-alone piece and is accessible on Standards Map. To read the executive summaries and download the articles in pdf, please click on the links above. This will also lead you to the further publications by the T4SD team.

    KOMPASS Nachhaltigkeit 

    The internet platform Kompass Nachhaltigkeit provides comprehensive information on sustainable procurement in order to support public institutions as well as small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in their purchasing decisions. A share of the data presented in KOMPASS is extracted from the T4SD GLOBALDATABASE. The primary objective of the Compass Sustainability is to facilitate the use of sustainability standards for public and private purchasing entities. The internet platform addresses buyers in Switzerland and Germany and is accessible at www.kompass-nachhaltigkeit.ch or www.kompass-nachhaltigkeit.de.


    The Committee on Sustainability Assessment (COSA) is a non-profit global consortium of institutions developing and applying an independent measurement tool to analyze the distinct social, environmental and economic impacts of any agricultural practices, particularly those associated with the implementation of specific sustainability programs. The primary goal is to establish useful global indicators and transparent, globally-shared measurement tools which farmers, policy-makers, and industry can use to understand and improve their sustainability with different crops or agricultural sectors. Information can be found at www.thecosa.org.


    T4SD is contributing to the work of GIZ, ISEAL Alliance and a range of experts on voluntary standards systems that are developing a “Comparison Tool” that aims to (i) evaluate the performance of sustainability standard systems, (ii) compare standard systems with each other or with other norms and requirements; and (iii) support mutual recognition between standard systems. To do so, this tool will extract and analyze data contained in the T4SD Standards Database, focusing primarily on the following areas: content of the standards; assurance process; governance and accessibility.


    T4SD is also building a new partnership with Supply Chain Information Management (SIM), a private company based in the Netherlands, to disseminate Standards Map to a wide range of supply chain stakeholders willing to access information on voluntary sustainability standards and use such information in their supply chain risk management systems.

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