Developing a Strategic Vision for the International Trade Centre’s Trade for Sustainable Development program
The International Trade Centre (ITC) is an agency of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the UN body that develops policy recommendations to achieve economic and social development through trade and investment, and the World Trade Organization (WTO), the international forum that negotiates multilateral trade rules, monitors implementation and handles trade disputes. ITC’s mission is to enable small business export success in developing countries by providing, with partners, trade development solutions to the private sector, trade support institutions and policy makers.
The Trade for Sustainable Development (T4SD) program at ITC is designed to empower producers, exporters, and buyers to overcome challenges arising from lack of information on voluntary sustainability standards and to expand sustainable trade. Voluntary sustainability standards, which are often referred to as eco-labels or voluntary standards systems, include organizations such as Fairtrade International, Rainforest Alliance, Social Accountability International, Forest Stewardship Council, the Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels and UTZ CERTIFIED, among others. The T4SD program incorporates a global database that potentially can be used by multiple stakeholders including standard setting bodies, buyers, companies, civil society groups and consumer organizations.
This unique database, with its flagship web portal, StandardsMap.org, provides an unmatched level of information about voluntary sustainability standards, enabling analysis and comparisons. It provides a web portal to learn about the issues addressed by each standard, and their respective requirements, costs, and to a certain level their potential benefits and impacts. Given the increasing interest in how voluntary sustainability standards can help address sustainable supply chain challenges and promote sustainable development, the T4SD program could leverage its position to provide one credible pool of information that comprehensively lodges most relevant information on voluntary sustainability standards.
With this context, ITC and T4SD sought to update and reposition their strategy regarding the development of customized front-end applications for the database that could meet the information needs of a broader range of potential users.
One of T4SD’s key donors, the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) asked AccountAbility to assist ITC in adapting its strategic vision on how to position and adjust the T4SD data platform to operate as the global “hub” for relevant information and communication tools on voluntary sustainability standards.
AccountAbility conducted interviews with stakeholders from the voluntary sustainability standards movement, including donors, subject matter experts, information systems and IT specialists, strategic partners, members of voluntary standards systems, and ISEAL Alliance, the global association for social and environmental standards. AccountAbility synthesized their perspectives and insights in a SWOT analysis and conducted a gap analysis upon reviewing key success factors and core competencies of ITC.
A technical assessment examined the T4SD IT infrastructure and the extent to which this would allow flexibility and ease in integrating future front-end websites and interoperability with other databases. Additionally, AccountAbility explored the feasibility of other technical options, and the potential future needs of front-end developers from a range of backgrounds. that should be addressed.
AccountAbility recommended that ITC’s vision for the database as a “hub” would be best served if ITC concentrated its efforts on the quality and the maintenance of the database and its current StandardsMap.org website, while encouraging opportunities for stakeholders and supporters to carry out the expansion of the database users and applications via new front-end websites and interlinks with other platforms. To achieve this vision, AccountAbility outlined nine strategic recommendations and three technical recommendations.
This approach aimed to further strengthen T4SD’s goals and specific mission, while also helping ITC reduce potential risks to the T4SD program. By implementing AccountAbility’s recommendations to leverage a broad range of support and allow for an accelerated timeline for development of new applications for the database, ITC could accomplish the goal for the T4SD database to serve as a central hub for information on voluntary sustainability standards.
“We are extremely satisfied with AccountAbility’s work. It was very useful to receive the stakeholder feedback, which AccountAbility synthesized to form a complete picture of the situation, including the opportunities and threats for the T4SD program. We feel strongly that AccountAbility’s recommendations for a strategic vision will strengthen the T4SD program and allow it to operate as the central repository of data on voluntary sustainability standards.”
- Philipp Schukat, Policy Advisor and Specialist for Environmental and Social Standard Systems, Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ)
“The Accountability review of T4SD was very useful for ITC in aligning donor expectations and work streams around a clear strategy that allows for increased understanding of the project’s scope and activities.”
- Joseph Wozniak, Programme Manager, Trade for Sustainable Development (T4SD)