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Creating a National Platform on Private Sustainability Standards in India, collectively supported by the UN system

Global markets are changing both because of evolution of supply chains and the lead firms which control those chains, as well as an increasing emphasis on sustainable and social standards in the major markets of developed nations. This combination of lead firms and emphasis on environmental and social standards has led to an immense significance of private standards to get access to these markets. The lead firms in supply chains insist that all suppliers connected to the chain meet those standards. Therefore, even if mandatory standards are emphasized by the Government, if an exporter has to place its product on the shelf of a superstore, the private standard emphasized by the importer is the one which is effectively mandatory for that purpose

The recent (8th June 2015) G7 Leaders’ Declaration shows this emphasis in the section on “Responsible Supply Chains”. It introduces the idea that these governments will monitor the supply chains of the major companies in their territory to ensure that sustainability and labour standards are met within the entire supply chain.

The ratio of India’s trade (goods and services) to GDP is 50%, rising rapidly from 26% in 2000. This shows that trade is very important for India. With this as well as the trade deficit being a strong policy concern, India is aiming for a rapid expansion of both exports as well as FDI into the country particularly through the “Make in India” programme. It is clear that exports aim to link domestic producers with markets abroad, and as explained above the ability to meet private sustainability standards becomes very important for that purpose

Recognizing the importance of these developments, as well as the fact that there is a multiplicity of private standards in the market, a large but successful initiative was launched by five UN agencies (FAO, ITC, UNCTAD, UNEP and UNIDO) at a UN conference in 2013, in the form of the United Nations Forum on Sustainability Standards (UNFSS). As proposed below for India, the creation of a UNFSS-supported national platform on private standards is already embraced by some key developing countries such as Brazil, China and Mexico.

UNFSS and QCI were in a discussions for creating a National PSS platform that generates a national dialogue between the main stakeholder groups on pro-active policy approaches, in addition to conducting in-depth research at various levels and providing support to national capacity-building efforts. The UNFSS has now formally agreed and identified QCI to co-ordinate and host the Indian National Platform on PSS.

For more information: Please contact Dr. Manish Pande at manish.pande@qcin.org