Voluntary sustainability standards (VSS) aim to encourage ethical behaviors of organizations, yet studies show that many VSS adopters do not live up to these promises. Existing literature typically attributes the reason for this ineffectiveness to either policy–practice decoupling, owing to a lack of adhering to VSS requirements, or means–ends decoupling, owing to a lack of adapting to the local context. However, little is known about how the contradictory needs of adherence and adaptation evolve throughout VSS implementation. Building on the knowledge transfer literature, we develop a dynamic conceptual framework that distinguishes two phases of VSS implementation. Specifically, we theorize how tensions emerge in the transition between phases since the first phase primarily calls for adherence, whereas the second calls for adaptation. Applying this framework, we develop propositions to illustrate how these tensions relate to different VSS characteristics: stringency, enforcement, and scope. The article concludes with implications and future research directions for VSS scholarship.