A new report reveals that sustainable trade and production are no longer a novelty: they reflect consumer demand in mainstream markets.

The comprehensive State of Sustainable Markets 2017 report was produced by the International Trade Centre, in partnership with the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture and the International Institute of Sustainable Development and published in June 2017. It analyzed 14 different voluntary sustainability standards (VSS), including UTZ, to identify market conditions and trends.

Exceptional growth

Exceptional growth was demonstrated across the sector, with all 14 standards experiencing growth since 2011. Sustainable agricultural products compliant with internationally recognized standards are growing at a pace that outstrips the market for conventional products.

Sustainable agricultural products compliant with internationally recognized standards are growing at a pace that outstrips the market for conventional products.

Coffee is poised to become the first sustainable commodity, with at least 25% of production compliant with one or more sustainability standards. Some 16% of the world’s cocoa area is now certified. Tea showed a 115% growth in certification from 2011-2015.

However, there are still many challenges. The cocoa market is confronted with systemic poverty and child labor. Concerns around tea include soil erosion, chemical inputs and worker protection. And across the board, there is a lack of data – data on markets, impact, producer performance, certification and accessibility of voluntary standards.

This is something we need more of to see what has to be recalibrated and what practices are worth scaling-up. Many sustainability standards, including UTZ, constantly monitor and evaluate for continuous improvement in order to address these topics, and count on the collaboration of industry stakeholders to make progress.

Front page report 2017 State of Sustainable Markets Transparency is key

For some producers and suppliers, adhering to a set of recognized principles represents a stepping-stone to best practice within supply chains. For others, it offers a strategy for managing reputational or supply risks.

The report notes that in a time of increased consumer pressure, voluntary standards promote a more transparent value chain and offer consumers more information about where their products come from, and where they are produced.

Overall, the trend is clear. Voluntary standards have not only become increasingly mainstream as a reflection of consumer demand, they have the potential to lead to social, environmental and economic sustainability.

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