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IGF Issues State of Sustainability Review of Standards and the Extractive Economy

September 12, 2018

A new study from the Intergovernmental Forum on Mining, Minerals, Metals and Sustainable Development (IGF) and International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) highlights how multistakeholder, market-based voluntary sustainability initiatives (VSIs) can promote more sustainable production practices, often at the global level.

The report highlights environmental, social and business-related impacts associated with mining activities and the different types of upstream and downstream VSIs in the sector. It highlights the variety of commodities mined, from precious stones to sand and gravel, and how different VSIs can achieve different results. It identifies collaboration as essential to working toward the interoperability of VSIs, both up and down the value chains and across various sector-focused themes.

“Many mineral-rich developing countries rely on the mining sector to spur economic development,” said Nathalie Bernasconi-Osterwalder, Group Director, International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD). “But to ensure mining is socially and environmentally sound, policy-makers need to ensure that strong legal frameworks and processes are put in place. VSIs, if properly designed, can play a role in complementing national laws and regulations or their implementation, and filling gaps to help limit harm sometimes caused in the mining sector and related supply-chains”.

The report, Standards and the Extractive Economy, summarizes the main sustainability issues in the mining sector, discusses the dynamic relationship between public policy and sustainability standards, provides a systematic analysis of 15 major sustainability initiatives in the mining sector, and presents a snapshot of the mining and minerals sector by commodity type.

“The report applied a distinctly rigorous methodology across 15 major initiatives, capturing not only the content but also the level of obligation demanded by the initiatives to implement sustainability actions. Our review is comprehensive, revealing the different strengths, and often the different intended purposes, of VSIs and the challenge of finding a one-size-fits-all initiative,” says one of the report’s authors, Laura Turley, Associate, IISD. 

“In the last decade, there has been rapid growth in the development and adoption of VSIs aimed at promoting sustainable production practices at a global level,” said Greg Radford, Director, IGF. “This is why consumption and production must be done sustainably.”

The report aims to assist policy-makers in analyzing the relationship between regulations and standards in their own country, and in the countries in which their companies operate, to enhance local and global sustainable development efforts.



The International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) is an independent think tank that delivers the knowledge to act. Our mission is to promote human development and environmental sustainability. Our big-picture view allows us to address the root causes of some of the greatest challenges facing our planet today—ecological destruction, social exclusion, unfair laws and economic and social rules, a changing climate. With offices in Winnipeg, Geneva, Ottawa, Toronto and New York, our work impacts lives in nearly 100 countries.


The IGF supports more than 60 nations committed to leveraging mining for sustainable development to ensure that negative impacts are limited and financial benefits are shared. It is devoted to optimizing the benefits of mining to achieve poverty reduction, inclusive growth, social development and environmental stewardship. The International Institute for Sustainable Development has served as Secretariat for the IGF since October 2015. Core funding is provided by the Government of Canada.

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