School of Transnational Governance

Transnational Regulation, Voluntary Standards, and Trade - Second Edition


Today’s global economy is governed by an increasingly complex web of standards – technical standards, quality standards, and sustainability standards aimed to reduce the environmental and social impact of transnational production. But who sets these standards? Are they compatible with the international trade regime? How are they governed and implemented? Are they helping or, rather, hindering sustainable development? 

This executive training provides a comprehensive and practical discussion of standard setting in a rapidly changing global regulatory environment. With a focus on transnational trade and production, participants learn about the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) rules on product standards, and the work of private standard setting bodies such as the International Standardization Organization (ISO). The trainers then focus on the highly dynamic field of voluntary sustainability standards (VSS). These voluntary initiatives set standards for sustainable production and often operate certification programs to verify compliance in global value chains. Initiated by NGOs, firms, and multi-stakeholder initiatives, the stated goal of VSS is to create win-win situations by reconciling environmental, social, and economic policy objectives. However, the potential of VSS to deliver on these objectives remains uncertain and contested. Particularly, the effectiveness of VSS and their impact on trade and development remains subject to much debate and controversy.

In exploring these subjects and considering the associated policy challenges, the training employs a combination of expert presentations, in-depth case studies, and group discussions.