Implementing the Agenda 2030: sustainability standards help business seize opportunities

Posted on 14 February 2017    

SDGSSince Rio+20, there is commitment for the of post-2015 development goals to take over after the Millennium Development Goals and the establishment of the new Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs. mean business: How credible standards can help companies deliver the 2030 Agenda” focuses on the importance of credible, voluntary sustainabilityIn order to survive, all life, including human life, depends either directly or indirectly on the natural environment. Sustainability is a principle where current requirements are met while the livelihoods of future generations are not threatened. standards as one of the tools that businesses can use to contribute toward the Sustainable Development GoalsSince Rio+20, there is commitment for the of post-2015 development goals to take over after the Millennium Development Goals and the establishment of the new Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs. (SDGs)

© WWF

Gland, Switzerland – A new report published by WWF and ISEAL today indicates how businesses can contribute strongly to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable DevelopmentThe concept of sustainable development was introduced in the World Conservation Strategy (IUCN 1980) and had its roots in the concept of a sustainable society and in the management of renewable resources. Adopted by the WCED in 1987 and by the Rio Conference in 1992 as a process of change in ... and unlock new market opportunities by using credible voluntary sustainability standards to transform entire sectors and supply chains.
 
The report, “SDGs mean business: How credible standards can help companies deliver the 2030 Agenda” illustrates how such standards – ready-made tools for businesses and supply chain actorsThe stakeholder is a person, group, or entity who has a direct or indirect role and interest in the goals or objectives and implementation of a program/intervention and/or its evaluation. (Glossary Monitoring and Evaluation Terms; MERG Monitoring & Evaluation Reference Group and UNAIDS) – can help accelerate progress on many of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) while delivering direct benefits for companies and small-scale producers. 
 
“Poverty, inequality, water scarcity, climate changeClimate change is a lasting change in weather patterns over long periods of time. It can be a natural phenomena and and has occurred on Earth even before people inhabited it. Quite different is a current situation that is also referred to as climate change, anthropogenic climate change, or ... and the loss of biodiversityThe total diversity of all organisms and ecosystems at various spatial scales (from genes to entire biomes). (IPCC) are significant risks for business and aligning with the SDGs represents an opportunity,” says Richard Holland, Director, Global Conservation Division at WWF International. “While leading companies have already made far-reaching commitments to help address climate change, deforestation and decent work, the majority of business sectors are not yet delivering on their responsibility towards the Agenda 2030.”
 
Credible, multi-stakeholderThe stakeholder is a person, group, or entity who has a direct or indirect role and interest in the goals or objectives and implementation of a program/intervention and/or its evaluation. (Glossary Monitoring and Evaluation Terms; MERG Monitoring & Evaluation Reference Group and UNAIDS) standards embody the partnership spirit of the SDGs, bringing together businesses, NGOs, governments and others to work toward common goals that benefit business, people and the planet. They are an important mechanism to help companies reach their targetsTarget period: For multi-year goals, a period of several consecutive years over which the mitigation goal is to be achieved. The last years of the goal period. Target year: For single-year goals, the year by which the goal is to be met. The last year of the goal period. Target year emissions: ... by scaling-up sustainable practices. Tried and tested on the ground, they can be used at every link in the value chain – enabling producers, harvesters and processors to achieve a recognized level of sustainability, and traders, manufacturers and retailers to address the impacts of their supply chains.
 
Many farmers using sustainability standards have seen net increases in their incomes due to productivity and quality improvements. For example, the BCI’s 2014 Harvest Report found farmers following the BCI standard across seven countries had significantly higher yields (ranging from +11 per cent in China and India to more than +50 per cent in Tajikistan and Mozambique) and higher profits per hectare than conventional cotton farmers, while using less waterClimate change is expected to exacerbate current stresses on water resources from population growth and economic and land-use change, including urbanisation. On a regional scale, mountain snow pack, glaciers and small ice caps play a crucial role in freshwater availability. Widespread mass ... and chemical inputs. For certified coffee farmers, this has translated among other benefits to improved school attendance of their children.
 
In Indonesia, Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) smallholder certification is taking pressure off elephants and tigers in Tesso Nilo National Park where French retailer Carrefour has been working with WWF to support smallholders to achieve RSPO certification. Smallholders taking part in the projectProject is an intervention designed to achieve specific objectives within specified resources and implementation schedules, often within the framework of a broader program. (Glossary Monitoring and Evaluation Terms; MERG Monitoring & Evaluation Reference Group and UNAIDS) have managed to increase productivity through better management practices, without expanding into the national park.
 
For businesses certification helps to manage risk. The social and environmental impacts of palm oil production for example represent a significant risk for investors. To mitigate these risks, a number of finance institutions, including the International Finance Corporation, Credit Suisse and Rabobank, require their clients to achieve RSPO certification.
 
“Over the next 13 years, all countries are expected to make progress across all of the SDGs.  Considering the overarching focus of the SDGSince Rio+20, there is commitment for the of post-2015 development goals to take over after the Millennium Development Goals and the establishment of the new Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs. agenda on people and the environment, it is clear that sustainability standards can play a crucial role in its implementation,” says Norma Tregurtha, Senior Policy & Outreach Manager at ISEAL.  “By providing an independent, verifiable method to assess whether or not a certain level of performance on sustainability is reached, standards and certification systems can serve as a measure of progress against the SDGs.”
 
Direct benefits for businesses from using sustainability standards can range from efficiencyUsing less energy/electricity to perform the same function. Programs designed to use electricity more efficiently - doing the same with less. gains through improved management practices, increased transparency and traceability throughout the whole supply chain to better quality relationships between suppliers and buyers.
 
WWF and ISEAL call upon the business community, key implementing partners of the 2030 Agenda, to use credible standards as a tool to increase sustainable practices and report on SDG progress.

More information: 

About credible sustainability standard systems
Sustainability standards translate the broad concept of sustainability into specific, concrete measures for companies and their suppliers. With broad uptake, they can move whole industries toward improved social, environmental and economic performance. This can make a major contribution to the SDGs.

Key elements of a credible sustainability standard include:

  • Multistakeholder participation: a standard’s requirements should be developed and governed through a multistakeholder process, involving representatives from across the entire supply chain from businesses, civil society, governments, research institutions and NGOs, with balanced decision-making. This should ensure the standard has positive social and environmental impacts, while also being practically and economically viable for large-scale uptake.
  • Transparency: details of the standard, how it is applied and how decisions are made, including certification assessments, should be clear and publicly available. 
  • Independent verification: compliance with the standard should be verified by an accredited, independent third party auditor or certification body. Impartial and periodic field-level verification is essential to understand whether a standard is actually achieving its mission.
  • Continuous improvement: the standard and the system should be regularly reviewed to incorporate the latest information and lessons learnedLearning from experience that is applicable to a generic situation rather than to a specific circumstance. (UNDP)Generalizations based on evaluation experiences with projects, programs, or policies that abstract from the specific circumstances to broader situations. Frequently, lessons highlight ... and ensure it delivers it goals..

Visit the ISEAL website for a full list of ISEAL members.
 
Concrete examples of impacts from sustainable standards include:
 
Improving smallholder livelihoodsSustainable livelihood includes job opportunities that are of a non-invasive type, and exclude extensive felling, heavy fishery, mono-cultures and other activities than permanently harm the environment; it also includes an lifestyle that takes care of any gives assets, such as fresh water or ...: effectiveness of certification in coffee, cocoa and cotton
Farmers using sustainability standards have seen net increases in their incomes due to productivity and quality improvements, as well as premiums paid. to them. A study by KPMG SUSTAINEO covering various standard systems found that certified smallholders also had better access to training, and their children’s school attendance was improved. The study covered Fairtrade, UTZ Certified, Sustainable AgricultureCultivation of the ground and harvesting of crops and handling of livestock, the primary function is the provision of food and feed. Network/Rainforest
Alliance, Common Code for the Coffee Community (4C, now the Sustainable Coffee Platform), Better Cotton Initiative (BCI), Cotton made in Africa (CmiA) and Organic. A growing amount of data on farmer livelihoods and productivity is showing how standards can contribute to several targets under SDG2. For example, the BCI’s 2014 Harvest Report found farmers following the BCI standard across seven countries had yields 23 per cent higher and profits per hectare 36 per cent higher than conventional cotton farmers, while using less water and chemical inputs.
 
RSPO smallholder certification taking pressure off elephants and tigers
Tesso Nilo National Park on the island of Sumatra one of the last strongholds of Sumatran elephants and tigers and boasts some of the most diverse flora on the planet. But it’s under siege by illegal palm oil plantations. French retailer Carrefour has been working with WWF to support smallholders in the area to achieve RSPO
certification. Smallholders taking part in the project have managed to increase productivity through better management practices, without expanding into the national park.
 
Weaving opportunities for women in Nepal
The GoodWeave standard certifies carpets and rugs that are free from child labour or forced labour. The organization runs a vocational training initiative for women, called Weaving Opportunities. Launched in Nepal in 2013, the programme aims to provide at-risk and impoverished women with marketable skills and to replenish the workforce with skilled adult weavers. After three months’ training, participants have the opportunity to work at a GoodWeave-certified carpet factory. In a survey of 87 women on the programme, more than half had no income before the interventionProject is an intervention designed to achieve specific objectives within specified resources and implementation schedules, often within the framework of a broader program. (Glossary Monitoring and Evaluation Terms; MERG Monitoring & Evaluation Reference Group and UNAIDS), while those who had been employed had a median monthly income of around US$30. Within the first month of employment, their median income was $60 – and their incomes have risen further as their weaving skills and speed increase..
 
Private partnership for sustainable palm oil
The social and environmental impacts of palm oil production represent a significant risk for investors. To mitigate these risks, a number of finance institutions, including the International Finance Corporation, Credit Suisse and Rabobank, require their clients to achieve Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) certification. Members of the investment community have also formed partnerships to promote more sustainable palm oil production. One such initiative is the Sustainable Palm Oil Investor Working Group, whose 25 members represent assets under management of over US$1.4 trillion.

More examples can be found in the report.

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