About SSI

The State of Sustainability Initiatives (SSI) is an international transparency and capacity-building project that aims at improving strategic planning and sustainable development outcomes related to voluntary sustainable standards (VSSs). It does so by providing in-depth, credible and needs-based information on VSS characteristics, market performance and potential contributions to addressing development challenges.

The United Nations Forum on Sustainability Standards (UNFSS) defines VSSs as “standards specifying requirements that producers, traders, manufacturers, retailers or service providers may be asked to meet, relating to a wide range of sustainability metrics, including respect for basic human rights, worker health and safety, the environmental impacts of production, community relations, land use planning and others”.

Our Work

We examine the characteristics of VSSs to better understand their strengths and limitations to enable various aspects of sustainable development, such as biodiversity conservation, poverty reduction and gender equality, providing us with insights to identify opportunities for VSS to move commodity sectors more effectively towards sustainability.

How do we do this?

We collect primary data from VSSs and standards setters on their systems characteristics and market performance using quantitative and qualitative methods. We conduct research and collect secondary data related to sustainable markets, VSSs and development issues through extensive literature review and establishing strategic partnerships with leading data providers to fill knowledge gaps. We also analyze data and provide recommendations for standard setters, private sector and governments to enhance the effectiveness of VSSs as tools for sustainable development.

The project is currently funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency. 

If you would like more information on our work, please download the brochures in either English, French or Spanish.

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Our History

Over the last three decades, there has been exponential growth in the demand and supply of leading standard-compliant products, which has led to the growth and proliferation of VSSs. The multiplicity of these initiatives makes it increasingly challenging for stakeholders to stay informed on their utility, performance and best practices.

The SSI project is a result of several multistakeholder meetings (2003-2006) on sustainable commodities production and trade, facilitated by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), under the auspices of the Sustainable Commodity Initiative (SCI).

Building on requests for improved information on the performance and market opportunities associated with voluntary sustainability initiatives, the SCI, through a special partnership with the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) and Aid environment, launched the SSI project in 2008. IISD leads and manages the SSI as part of the Sustainability Standards program.

Our Team

Steffany Bermudez

Data Collection and Analysis Specialist

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Joelle Deschambault

Project Manager

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Sara Elder, expert for SSI, headshot

Sara Elder

Lead Author, SSI Review on Standards, Market Access and Poverty Reduction

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Gabriel Huppe

Lead Author, SSI Review on Finance

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Cristina Larrea

Lead Sustainability Standards

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Laura Turley

Researcher and Contributor

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Vivek Voora

Sustainability Standards Advisor

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Francesca Nugnes

Researcher and Contributor

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Peter Hach

Project Manager

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Our Partners & Supporters