Voluntary Sustainability Standards (VSS) are standards developed at local, national or international level by organizations from the public and private sectors on environmental and social improvements. Private VSS are developed by businesses or not-for-profit NGOs.
In the agricultural sector, VSS promote sustainability along the value chain. They define criteria to be met by the certified organization or product, often resulting in an identifiable label for consumers.
Over the last decade, certified commodities markets have grown at annual rates between 20% and 100%, along with an increasing number of private standards. An increasing number of agricultural producers and traders get certified as they identify potential social, environmental but also economic benefits in VSS. Among the environmental and social labels, the most common in the agricultural sector are the Rainforest Alliance, organic agriculture and fair trade labels.
VSS in the banana sector
Voluntary Sustainability Standards are becoming mainstream in the banana export market as big companies to measure and showcase the improvement of their practices to limit supply and reputational risks.
In 2013, most of the global certified banana production was compliant with GlobalG.A.P, followed by Rainforest Alliance, organic and Fairtrade.
Between 2009 and 2012, standard-compliant banana production increased at a rate of 12% per annum. Latin America is historically a sustainable crop production area: the region produces more than 90% of global standard-compliant bananas.