The concept of a ‘sustainability standard’ has evolved from a mere buzzword into a crucial pillar of global trade. Sustainability standards are important in international trade due to their role in promoting ethical business conduct, preparing businesses for upcoming mandatory regulations, fostering harmonization in global trade and driving innovation. As the world continues to prioritize sustainability, these standards serve as a potential framework upon which a more environmentally conscious and socially responsible global economy can be built. Sustainability standards have gained importance in international trade due to interconnected factors. First, in an era marked by environmental crises and climate change, there is growing global awareness of the need for sustainable practices. Consumers, investors and businesses are increasingly inclined towards environmentally and socially responsible goods and production methods. Sustainability standards, such as those explored in this report, provide a framework for companies to ensure that their operations are environmentally friendly and socially responsible. These standards serve as a signal to consumers, demonstrating a company’s commitment to ethical practices and thereby enhancing its reputation and marketability. Also, sustainability standards act as a potential mechanisms to comply with upcoming regulatory requirements. As the world grapples with the urgent need to mitigate climate change, governments and international bodies are working to formulate stricter regulations related to environmental protection and social responsibility. By adopting sustainability standards, businesses gain valuable experience and insights into sustainable practices, making it easier for them to comply with future regulations. This proactive approach has the potential to position and prepare companies for the evolving legal landscape, ensuring they stay ahead of the regulatory curve. This comprehensive annual update on the state of sustainable markets is crucial to understand the dynamic landscape of sustainability standards and their impact on global trade. It shares the 2021 data on area, production volume and producers for 14 major standard-setting organizations1 and focuses on eight commodities: bananas, cocoa, coffee, cotton, oil palm, soy, sugarcane, tea and forestry. The data in this report not only provide insights into the current state of these markets, but also shed light on the progress and challenges faced by key standard-setting organizations in promoting sustainability. It serves as a valuable resource for policymakers, businesses and consumers looking to make informed decisions in support of sustainable and ethical trade practices across these sectors.

Laura Kemper, Gregory Sampson, Cristina Larrea, Bernhard Schlatter, Erika Luna, Tuan Duc Dang and Helga Willer
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