The State of Sustainable Markets 2020



International Trade Centre


This report is the fifth in what is now an annual update on the state of sustainable markets. It shares the latest data on area, production volume and producers for 14 major standard-setting organizations focusing on eight commodities and forestry.

Features of the current market context are continued growth, expanding coverage of agricultural land and dominance in some sectors of single-sector standards, as outlined below. Among the focal points of this year’s report.


The big four: cotton, cocoa, oil palm and coffee

  • In 2018, cotton continued to have the largest certified area, followed by cocoa, oil palm and coffee.
  • For cocoa, the certified area was at least 3.2 million hectares and reached a global share of the total cocoa area of at least 27%, with 25% of the global cocoa area UTZ-certified. In 2018, at least 5.9 million hectares or at least 18% of the global cotton area was certified, with 13% by BCI alone. Certified oil palm (2.9 million hectares) accounted for at least 15% of the global oil palm area, almost all of which was RSPO-certified. Certified coffee (2.2 million hectares) accounted for at least 21% of the global coffee area, with 13% certified by 4C alone.

Certified area continues to grow and standard compliance gains ground

  • In the five-year period from 2014–2018, the certified area of all agricultural commodities covered in this report grew by at least half (+52%). Cotton experienced the highest growth rate of its certified area, which almost tripled (+173%). This was followed by cocoa, which almost doubled in area (+90%), as well as a notable growth in sugarcane and tea area (+75% and +57%, respectively).
  • The selected agricultural commodities experienced an accelerated one-year area growth in 2016–2017 (+18%) that then flattened in 2017–2018 (+6%). While cotton and oil palm expanded by more than 10% (cotton: +14%; oil palm: +13%), all other commodities experienced single-digit growth except for sugarcane and coffee, for which a decline was recorded (coffee -13% and sugarcane -2%).
  • In 2018, the selected agricultural standards certified at least 8% of the global area of the selected agricultural commodities. Four standards certified at least 27% of the global cocoa area. The coffee sector also boasted a high compliance rate, with at least 21% of the global coffee area certified. At least 18% of the global cotton area and at least 16% of the global tea area were certified by a standard.

Organic is the leading standard in terms of total area certified, but growth is faster for others

  • Organic is the biggest sustainability standard in terms of both area and product variety. In 2018, 71.5 million hectares of agricultural land were certified as organic (including areas in the process of becoming organic-certified), representing 1.5% of agricultural land worldwide.
  • In 2018, after organic, five of the selected agricultural standards for the first time achieved a land coverage of around 4 million hectares each. Among these, Rainforest Alliance certified the largest area (4.5 million hectares), followed by BCI (4.2 million hectares), GLOBALG.A.P. (3.9 million hectares), UTZ (3.9 million hectares) and RSPO (3.7 million hectares).
  • In 2014–2018, all of the standards covered in this report grew in their compliant areas, most of them double-digit, and some even triple-digit. CmiA saw the greatest jump, with its certified area tripling in size (+204%), followed by RTRS and BCI, whose certified area expanded by 172% and 160%, respectively.
  • In 2017–2018, five of the 12 agricultural standards experienced double-digit area growth, with Rainforest Alliance achieving the highest growth rate (+29.5%).

To download the full report, please click here.


Meier, C., Sampson, G., Larrea, C., Schlatter, B., Voora, V., Dang, D., Bermudez, S., Wozniak, J., and Willer, H. (2020). The State of Sustainable Markets 2020: Statistics and Emerging Trends. ITC, Geneva.