Today, UNIDO, a UN agency tasked with promoting industrial development, launches the guidebook “Making private standards work for you: a guide to private standards in the garments, footwear and furniture sectors”. SOMO researchers served as the main authors of the guide.

Private standards, also known as business values, norms, ethics, codes, principles or morals, are considered to be one of the ways of promoting social development and environmental sustainability in global value chains. Some estimates suggest that more than 1,000 codes of conduct and management systems exist. But most companies in developing countries do not have much tangible information.

The new UNIDO-guide describes the most significant trends in codes of conduct and business standards and is designed to help businesses in developing countries see the wood for the trees. For example, an enterprise could decide to adhere to a very ambitious code of conduct and use this to its advantage in negotiations with a retail competitor. Another strategy would be for enterprises to develop their own code of conduct containing elements from a variety of different codes.

The Chairman of the Vietnam Apparel and Textiles Association, Van Dao, said the new guidebook would “provide producers who are trying to enter into business with major buyers and retailers, with invaluable information on what is facing them. When trading with global buyers, on top of national, regional or international standards and technical regulations, a business now needs to comply with private standards as well.”

In drafting this guide, UNIDO commissioned SOMO to carry out research into the importance of codes of conduct and standards for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in developing countries. The project is based on research conducted in the clothing industry in Turkey, the furniture industry in Brazil and the leather industry in India. Under supervision of SOMO and UNIDO, local researchers interviewed over 100 businesses in these countries.

It is the aim of UNIDO to help business support organizations and exporters to better understand and respond to the challenge of private standards. SOMO will further assist UNIDO in developing a training package on the basis of the guidebook. The training will be available in the first semester of 2011.

The guidebook is available in English, French, Spanish, Arabic and Chinese, and can be downloaded here: