Learning Event

Sustainability standards and social concerns: an academic roundtable

  • Date: 4 May 2021
  • Time: 13:00 London

Learning Event summary

In this second academic roundtable as part of the Evidensia-UNFSS webinar series, we focus on the contribution of voluntary sustainability standards (VSS) to key social issues. VSS specify requirements that cover a wide range of environmental and socio-economic issues. On the social dimension, VSS cover issues related to improved working conditions, labor rights and safety, fair prices and benefit sharing, fair wages, community development, gender equality, and the promotion of responsible consumption and production, among others. But even if VSS could be considered useful tools to achieve socio-economic and environmental sustainability, the evidence on their impact and effectiveness is unclear which makes assessing the contribution VSS to social sustainability complex. Building a way forward in understanding the association between VSS and the social concerns they attempt to address lies at the heart of this dialogue.

Through this roundtable discussion, the UNFSS’s Academic Advisory Council (AAC) members are brought together to discuss social concerns and their links with the design and effectiveness of sustainability standards. Through knowledge exchanges and policy dialogues, this roundtable discussion will help in providing inputs and developing a common foundation upon which further research and discussion in this area could be conducted. This dialogue is compounded with questions namely:

What is the role of VSS in promoting social sustainability? What do we know about the possibilities of VSS for social upgrading?
On which social dimensions would VSS be a challenge to address, and which of these dimensions can VSS make a difference and/or should prioritize?
What are some of the main knowledge gaps and where do we need more research/ type of research?

Lead speakers:

– Verena Bitzer, Research Fellow, Maastricht University
– Elizabeth Bennett, Asst. Professor of International Affairs, Lewis and Clark College
– Miet Maertens, Senior Economist at LICOS – Centre for Institutions and Economic Performance, KU Leuven