International Standards and Trade Barriers

Lead Author: Matthew Wenban-Smith

Publish date: 06.14.2006


Certification of consumer goods based on environmental and/or social responsibility standards, such as certification of forests and forest products, can be used as an effective and cost efficient tool by governments and inter-governmental organizations to improve compliance with a wide variety of social and environmental policies and commitments. However, thus far governments around the globe have generally been reluctant to show strong support for forest certification and other certification programs despite the growing evidence of their positive impacts. For the most part certification is having these impacts despite, not because of, government policy.


This Dovetail Report suggests that international standards for the responsible trade in forest products could provide a way out of this cul de sac. Reference to international standards would allow governments to specify and implement procurement policies that favor socially and environmentally friendly products, while making use of a non-governmental mechanism for verifying compliance. International social and environmental standards present an underutilized opportunity for improving people’s lives around the world.