- freely available
Sustainability 2014, 6(1), 18-49; https://doi.org/10.3390/su6010018
- Hard international legal instruments with a forest-related mandate and sanctions (such as the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC));
- Growing body of soft international law focused on forests, which are not legally binding or not followed by sanctions for non-fulfilment, such as the Non-Legally Binding Instrument (NLBI)  and other decisions of the United Forum on Forests (UNFF), IPF/IFF (Intergovernmental Panel on Forests (IPF) and the Intergovernmental Forum on Forests (IFF)) proposals for action, the Forest Principles and Chapter 11 of Agenda 21 [24,27];
- Voluntary private sector regulation, such as the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) principles for forest management .
Aim of this Paper
2. Material and Methods
- Voluntary instruments are classified into two instrument categories: instruments with regulatory power, like certification and voluntary standards, and voluntary, non-regulatory instruments like CSR and SIA (see Table 1). Instrument categories are understood as a grouping of instruments following similar concepts. Instruments are means of implementing defined measures, concepts or ideas.
|Instrument category||Instrument||Approach to represent instrument|
|Voluntary and regulatory instruments||Voluntary standards (ISO)||ISO14040: LCA|
|Voluntary and non-regulatory instruments||CSR reporting||CSR (IKEA)|
|Reporting on Sustainability impacts (SIA)||SIA (ToSIA)|
- To give more tangible examples, for each instrument a representative approach is described in the following steps:
- Background of the instrument
- Approaches used within this instrument with a discourse of
- Definition and implementation: Details about the approach and its historic background are given. The aspects of sustainability it targets are described with details about the scope of the assessment (system boundary).
- Strengths: Strengths are presented based on empirical observations, experiences from practice and literature.
- Weaknesses: Weaknesses are presented based on empirical observations, experiences from practice and literature.
- Suitability and actors: The suitability to assess or prove the sustainability assessment of a product, processes, or code of conduct) are clarified and potential actors for whom this approach or instrument is suitable are described.
- The focus is on approaches as a way of dealing with certain concepts, rather than on specifically defined methods or tools. The reason behind is that for some instruments only recommended approaches exist. The detailed method or tools to implement them can be developed by the companies applying it. After the individual and detailed descriptions for each instrument and approach, they are assessed comparatively with respect to the sustainability dimensions each one covers (Section 3.3.). The traditional separation into economic, environmental and social aspects of sustainability turned out to be too simplistic and instead we used: work place, human rights, community, market place, environment and economy. These categories were chosen based on ISO26000 categories for social responsibility, supplemented with the dimension of economy. Each category is divided in sub-aspects which it covers. These sub-aspects are described and calculated by a set of indicators which each approach uses. For better analysis these indicators were condensed to a limited number of representative main indicators per sustainability dimension, as described in detail in Table 2.
|Safety and health|
|Work satisfaction/perception. Attractive employer|
|Human rights||Human rights|
|Anti-force and child labour|
|National/international rights conformance|
|Community||Local community impacts|
|Public perception of company (Company brand)|
|Advertising and product recognition (Product brand)|
|Environment||Resource and Environment|
|Low environmental Impact|
|Landuse and protection of biodiversity|
|Gross value added|
Roles and Interaction of Actors:
- Investors have an interest in high and stable returns on investments, while minimizing risks. Risks for a company can take different forms such as the volatility of global and local markets, prices of raw materials, but most important are reputational risks and operational risks with regards to the fulfilment of environmental obligations [34,35]. Adherence to more strict regulations and initiative in good governance and production are usually investor driven. Investors are influential, as companies are dependent on their investments, and often major investors are represented in the decision making body of a company.
- NGOs (non-governmental organisations) are one of the external drivers demanding high standards and responsible treatment of the natural environment in the name of public interest. Thus, their demands and activities link directly to publicity, and in consequence, to financial risks related to the production environment of companies. NGOs are important actors influencing the use and development of both legal and voluntary instruments [24,36].
- Business customers, end-users and citizens, are important driving forces for company practices and markets. Companies anticipating a market premium may offer end customers products with an eco-friendly reputation. The end users i.e., the public, are usually in a national setting which relates to certain regional or national legislation and standards. The purchasing of public contracts may have a significant environmental or social impact. Therefore, purchases with public money are regulated by the EU directive 2004/18 . In recent years, customers have also become more aware and active in demanding product safety, and ethical production practices. Market competition drives companies to respond to customer demands in a forward acting and informative matter .
3. Results: Sustainability Assessments in Voluntary Instruments
3.1. Standards Replace Legislation
3.2. Voluntary Instruments with Regulatory Power: Certification and Voluntary Standards
3.2.1. Approaches Used in Voluntary, Regulatory Instruments: FSC Certification
220.127.116.11. Definition and Implementation of Standards and Certification, and Example from FSC
18.104.22.168. Suitability and Actors
3.2.2. Approaches Used in Voluntary, Regulatory Instrument: ISO Standard 14040 on Life Cycle Analysis (LCA)
22.214.171.124. Definition and Implementation, and an Example from ISO14040
- Goal and scope definition
- Inventory analysis, and
- Impact assessment, referring to certain impact categories as e.g., Global Warming Potential and Acidification.
126.96.36.199. Suitability and Actors
3.3. Voluntary, Non-Regulatory Instruments: CSR and Other Reporting Practices in the Industry
- Principle 1: Support and respect the protection of internationally proclaimed human rights.
- Principle 2: Make sure that they are not complicit in human rights abuses.
- Principle 3: The freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining.
- Principle 4: the elimination of all forms of forced and compulsory labour.
- Principle 5: the effective abolition of child labour.
- Principle 6: the elimination of discrimination in employment and occupation.
- Principle 7: Support a precautionary approach to environmental challenges.
- Principle 8: Undertake initiatives to promote environmental responsibility.
- Principle 9: Encourage the development and diffusion of environmentally friendly technologies.
- Principle 10: Businesses should work against corruption in all its forms, including extortion and bribery.
3.3.1. Approaches Used in Voluntary Reporting: Cooperate Social Responsibility (CSR)
188.8.131.52. Definition and Implementation, an Example from IKEA
184.108.40.206. Suitability and Actors
3.3.2. Approaches Used in Voluntary Reporting: SIA Approach
220.127.116.11. Definition and Implementation, Example of ToSIA
18.104.22.168. Suitability and Actors
3.4. Comparison of Voluntary Instruments on the Covered Sustainability Dimensions
|CSR||CSR||ISO 26000:2010||Forest Management Standard||ISO |
|Global Reporting Initiative (1997)||UN Global Compact (1999)||ISO 26000 on Social Responsibility||FSC||14000 on Environmental Management||Sustainability Impact Assessment|
|Sustainability dimension: Work place|
|GRI: Labour practices and decent work||UN GC: Labour Standards||Labour |
|Principle 4, |
|ISO Reporting: Workplace||Social indicators|
|Sustainability dimension: Human rights|
|GRI: Human rights||UN GC: Human Rights||Human rights 6.3||Principle 1, |
|ISO Reporting: Human rights||(potential)|
|Sustainability dimension: Community|
|GRI: Society||UN GC: Transparency/Anti-corruption||Fair operating practices 6.6, Community involvement and development 6.8||Principle 2, |
|ISO Reporting: Community||(potential)|
|Sustainability dimension: Market place|
|GRI: Product responsibility||Consumer issues 6.7||Principle 9||ISO Reporting: Marketplace||(potential)|
|Sustainability dimension: Environment|
|UN GC: Environment||The environment 6.5||Principle 6, |
|ISO Reporting: Environment||Environmental indicators|
|Sustainability dimension: Economy|
4. Discussion and Conclusion: Summary of Suitability and Trends of Introduced Approaches
4.1. In Short—Which Approach is Suitable for Which Purpose?
- ■ For comparative, operations- and management-related questions (=processes) with a clear system boundary, SIA is suitable.
- ■ While for stand-alone, product related assessments which need to cover a wide range of the lifecycle of the product itself and the raw materials and facilities to produce this product, LCA is suitable (=Environmental Product Declaration).
- ■ A company’s code of conduct in terms of sustainable behaviour can so far only be assessed through CSR, and the contents thereof have to be defined by the company itself. ISO 26000 gives merely guidelines for assessment.
4.2. Why Are Voluntary Instruments Gaining More Ground and Getting More Important for Sustainable Management?
4.3. How Does SIA Add Value to above Approaches, and What Are Development Trends for Voluntary Instruments?
Convention on Biological Diversity
Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Economies
Cooperate Social Responsibility
Environmental Impact Assessment
Environmental Management Systems
European Timber Regulation
Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade
Forest Stewardship Council
Global Panel of Forest Experts
Global Reporting Initiative
International Standard Organisation
International Tropical Timber Organisation
National Forestry Programme
Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification
Regional Forest Programme
Strategic Environmental Assessment
Sustainability Impact Assessment
small- to medium-sized enterprise
Standard Trading Group
Tool for Sustainability Impact Assessment
United Nations Conference on Environment and Development
United Nations Environment Programme
United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change
Voluntary Partnership Agreement
World Commission on Environmental and Development
Conflicts of Interest
|ISO Reporting: Marketplace||Customer complaints about products and services|
|Advertising complaints upheld|
|Complaints about late payment of bills|
|Upheld cases of anti-competitive behaviour|
|Customer satisfaction levels|
|Provision for customers with special needs|
|Average time to pay bills to suppliers|
|Customer loyalty measures|
|Recognising and catering for diversity in advertising and product labelling|
|Social impact, cost or benefits, of the company’s core products and services|
|Cash value of company support as % of pre-tax profit|
|Estimated combined value of staff company time, gifts in kind and management costs|
|Individual value of staff time, gifts in kind and management costs|
|ISO Reporting: Environment||Overall energy consumption|
|Quantity of waste produced by weight|
|Upheld cases of prosecution for environmental offences|
|CO2/greenhouse gas emissions|
|Other emissions (e.g., Ozone, Radiation, SOx, NOx etc.)|
|Use of recycled material|
|Percentage of waste recycled|
|Net CO2 contribution made|
|Environmental impact over the supply chain|
|Environmental impact, benefits or costs, of companies core products and services|
|Any upheld non-compliances with domestic human rights legislation|
|Existence of confidential grievance procedures for workers|
|ISO Reporting: Workplace||Workforce profile: gender, race, disability, age|
|Workforce profile compared to the community profile for travel to work area: gender, race, disability, age|
|Number of legal non-compliances on health, safety, equal opportunities legislation|
|Number of staff grievances|
|Upheld cases of corrupt or unprofessional behaviour|
|Number of recordable incidents (fatal and non-fatal) including sub-contractors|
|Value of training and development provided to staff|
|Pay and conditions compared against local equivalent averages|
|Impact evaluations of the effects of downsizing, restructuring etc.|
|Perception measures of the company by its employees|
|ISO Reporting: Community||Project progress and achievement measures|
|Leverage of other resources|
|Impact evaluations carried out on community programmes|
|Perception measures of the company as a good neighbour|
|ISO Reporting: Human rights||Progress measures against adherence to stated business principles on human rights as stated by law and international human rights standards|
|Proportion of suppliers and partners screened for human rights compliance|
|Proportion of suppliers and partners meeting the company’s expected standards on human rights|
|Proportion of company’s managers meeting the company's standards on human rights within their area of operation|
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