China’s opportunity to embrace voluntary sustainability standards

“If China grasps the opportunities offered by sustainable certification, it can reap commercial, environmental and social rewards, while helping set the rules for a greener global economy.

International voluntary sustainability standards – such as the Forest Stewardship Council, which certifies sustainably managed forests and forest products – are tools for verifying socially sound and eco-friendly goods and services that play an increasingly important role in global trade. However, they are still relatively new and underused in China. These standards offer Chinese companies, officials and NGOs new ways to take part in setting the rules of the global economy, and a powerful instrument to help the country’s companies gain market rewards for good social and environmental performance. This is a soft-power strategy worthy of attention.”

Continue reading the full article on China Dialogue.

Or read my little explanation here. I feel as if this article hardly should be published with my name alone, for it has been the product of years of research with some of the greatest minds in sustainable development and economics that I have ever had the chance to work with.

The ideas of this article grew out of work I did with Simon Zadek (then Chief Executive of AccountAbility) and Long Guoqiang of the Development Research Center of the Chinese State Council, then vice director of the foreign economics department (now director). When we released the initial copy of our report “Advancing the Sustainable Competitiveness of China’s Transnational Corporations,” (final version hereIsabel Hilton, editor of China Dialogue, asked me to write about it on China Dialogue. In the meantime, I’ve gotten more familiar with the world of certification-based international voluntary sustainability standards and find them especially compelling as sustainable development tools among the panoply of possible approaches. So this China Dialogue article shows my interest in these types of standards. You won’t get a summary of the original research I did with Zadek and Long, but I hope the article does help you understand how sustainability standards are in many ways leading best practices with measurable positive sustainable development impacts that can help underpin China’s ambitions to be a sustainable global power.

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