Background: The purpose of the article is to research and analyze the notion of sustainability criteria in their function of an emerging tool to promote and safeguard sustainable products and their sustainable production. The article addresses critical issues, which are important for deeper understanding of sustainability criteria and their practical use. In this, the article examines the existing definitions of sustainability criteria, explores what indicators for sustainability criteria are, researches the issue of costs for following sustainability criteria, and discusses what groups of actors can be responsible for setting and supporting sustainability criteria. The research is done from a legal perspective, which involves much attention on how sustainability criteria can efficiently be implemented and used in legal constructions. Examples from the biofuel sector, which is regulated through a variety of legal frameworks and voluntary sustainability standards with sustainability criteria, are provided.
Results: The research results highlight that sustainability criteria is not a clearly defined concept. Their content should be linked to the understanding of what sustainable development and sustainability in each particular branch are. Purposes of sustainability criteria have to be explained and clarified so that it is easier to interpret and fulfill them. In some cases, sustainability criteria can set an upper limit to the use of natural resources and provide institutional guidance.
Conclusions: It is desirable that sustainability criteria are applied at initial stages of an industry development. Control of how sustainability criteria are fulfilled and its quality are very important. Thoroughly elaborated regulations on control mechanisms and their components, such as monitoring, reporting, verification, and transparency, should be included into legal frameworks and voluntary sustainability standards. Different groups of actors at different levels can be responsible for setting and supporting the implementation of sustainability criteria. Among them are international institutions, states, their governments, independent bodies established by states, NGOs, producers, and users. Collaboration between these groups should be promoted.