Voluntary standards and the SDGs: Mapping public-private complementarities for sustainable development

Philip Schleifer, Clara Brandi, Rupal Verma, Katharina Bissinger, Matteo Fiorini
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#Sustainability standards

To strengthen global sustainability governance, academics and policymakers have called for a better integration of private governance with public policy instruments. Surprisingly, however, systematic research on the state of such public-private complementarities in the field of sustainable development is lacking. With a focus on voluntary sustainability standards and the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, this article addresses this research gap. It uses a novel dataset of 232 voluntary standards to examine how their policies and organizational processes interact with the 17 Sustainable Development Goals and their targets. We identify significant public-private complementarities, but also areas of institutional disconnect. We further explore how the creation of institutional linkages in this issue area is driven by instrumental, managerial, and normative concerns and develop an agenda for future research. This includes research on whether and how intensifying public-private interactions at the transnational level translate into tangible impacts for sustainable development on the ground.

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