CWR > Volume 2(2); 2016 > Current Developments
Research Paper
Published online: September 1, 2016

Sustainability Standards and Their Trade Implications

Deepali Fernandes & Yongmin Bian
University of Zurich
Rämistrasse, 8001 Zürich Switzerland
Corresponding Author:

ⓒ Copyright YIJUN Institute of International Law. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License ( which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Driven by market, consumer preferences and recent climate change discussions, the usage of ‘sustainability’ standards has over the last decade gained ground worldwide. Sustainability standards are largely voluntary, non-mandatory and an increasingly important component of the green economy. While on the one hand the usage of sustainability standards helps achieve several economic and environment objectives, on the other hand they can potentially act as barriers to trade in particular for small producers. This paper examines the potential trade and commercial aspects of sustainability standards in terms of their diversity, cost of incorporation and interaction with supply chains. It considers the compatibility of sustainability standards with the existing trade architecture of the World Trade Organization, drawing on relevant case law developments. Finally, it recommends the usage of international platforms such as the UNFSS and ITC Standards map, to enable prod-uct/service specific information sharing, conformity assessment and business networking.

Keywords : Sustainability, Green Economy, Trade, Standards, WTO

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