ITC Executive Director Opening Remarks at ITC’s Fifth T4SD Forum

2 October 2018
ITC News
ITC Executive Director Opening Remarks at ITC’s Fifth Trade for Sustainable Development Forum - T4SD 2018
“Acting sustainably in how we produce, consume and trade”
Geneva - Switzerland

Good morning friends.

I am very pleased to welcome you all here to ITC for the fifth T4SD Forum.

This year, we are focusing on a particularly important, yet undersubscribed, Sustainable Development Goal: Responsible Consumption and Production – SDG 12.

We had invited the Prime Minister of Barbados Mia Amor Mottley to open this Forum. Unfortunately, tropical storm Kirk has caused serious flooding in the island, which requires her presence on the ground. A stark reminder of the seriousness of the fight against climate change, a reality which millions of people live every day.

As economic growth accelerates, unsustainable consumption and production patterns can exacerbate inequality and deplete our shared natural resources. The emphasis on responsible CONSUMPTION and PRODUCTION reiterates the key role that businesses, governments, and consumers each play in driving the changes we need in global value chains and domestic consumption patterns.

As such, our collective challenge is to ensure that we ACT SUSTAINABLY in how we PRODUCE, CONSUME, and TRADE. Throughout the Forum, you will hear from experts and engage in collaboration on developing actionable solutions.

Business as usual is not an option. Not if we are to achieve the SDGs by 2030 or create a global community that places a premium on people-centered development. But in this room I am preaching to the converted. You are all invested in raising the profile, the research and the action on sustainability issues. You are all Ambassadors for SDG 12.

Already, we are seeing increased demand for improved information on product sustainability. A 2015 Nielson Consumer Survey found that two-thirds of respondents were willing to pay more for sustainable products and services, which was a significant increase from previous years. Emerging Markets consumers in particular are profoundly changing their behaviour at buying; choosing premium products for greater quality, healthier lifestyles, reliable brands, and increased trust in standards and labels.

How then are businesses embracing new patterns of production as a response to consumer demand? The ITC State of Sustainable Markets report, which I am pleased to formally launch today, shows a nearly ten-fold increase in the area of land certified to Voluntary Sustainability Standards across several core agricultural products. The report is rich in data and analytics and it points at a significant potential for continued growth. This is just one example of how awareness raising has translated into concrete actions on the ground.

And with ITCs latest research initiative with the European Commission, focusing on a cross-sectoral survey on the demand for sustainable products in the EU, to be published early next year, I expect to see an even greater uptake.

We also are seeing more robust initiatives from national and local governments through sustainable public procurement, legislation, and communications campaigns. Just last week at a side-event at the United Nations General Assembly in New York, several European cities who have recently received the EU Cities for Fair and Ethical Trade Award shared their sustainability initiatives at the local level.

And we are also seeing countries introduce legislation requiring businesses to ensure responsible business across their supply chains.

All of these point to the need to foster partnerships to create a culture of sustainable production and consumption, a change in mind-set.

Indeed, working with the private sector and engaging with consumers is a MUST for us to make any progress on SDG 12. SDG 12 aims at “doing more and better with less”, by promoting a more resource efficient economy and encouraging industries, companies and consumers to move towards more sustainable patterns of consumption.

This is especially true of SMEs, which make up over 95% of all firms in any given country. Many companies are stepping up to meet the demand for sustainability, whether through the adoption of sustainability standards, cooperation across sectors to ensure better social compliance, or alignment with international initiatives such as the United Nations Global Compact.

In this regard, ITC supports enterprises, worldwide, in adopting and becoming certified to social and environmental standards through capacity building, advisory services, and through online tools such as SUSTAINABILITY MAP.

For example, In Colombia, ITC, Swisscontact and the Colombia Cocoa Network have been supporting cocoa producers to understand and comply with international sustainability standards and connect with potential buyers through Sustainability Map. By adopting more sustainable business strategies, Colombian SMEs are a step closer to tap into international markets. This project makes use of Sustainability Map to enable direct linkage between cocoa producers and potential buyers. As a direct result of the project, Colombian producers were connected international buyers willing to pay a premium for sustainable cocoa. This is a good example of how to engage businesses in sustainable consumption and production worldwide. This is an excellent template for us to build on and expand.

This Forum is a testament to our collaboration with others actors in products, value chains, and markets around the world. In this morning’s sessions, you will hear from a variety of experts on the challenges and opportunities related to sustainable consumption as well as the role of standards in driving responsible production and consumption.

This afternoon, we will discuss best practices and inspiring initiatives in the textile sector, where ITC is working with a broad coalition of sector enterprises to increase transparency and traceability of the, notoriously complex, textile value chain. The final session today will dive into the future of sustainable consumption in emerging markets, where 40% of the world’s population live. These markets are of growing importance to ensuring inclusivity in trade, which protects the environment as well as the women and men working in international supply chains.

You will hear more about these collaborations and others on Day 2 of the Forum. In the smaller Project Labs, you will be able to engage directly in several of the projects in which ITC and our partners collaborate to create tailored and scalable solutions for sustainable consumption and production. To finish off Day 2, we will host our Partner’s Event with UNCTAD BioTrade as they hold sessions on sustainable production and consumption for safeguarding Biodiversity.

In the final session on Wednesday at the WTO, in conjunction with the Public Forum, we will bring together each of the themes from this week to collaborate on how multi-level policy approaches, market based tools, networks, and other supply chain innovations will help us build a connected future and rise to the challenge set by the 2030 agenda.

Let me once again welcome you to ITCs Trade for Sustainable Forum 2018. We look forward to learning from your experiences.