Whether trade is ‘good’ or ‘bad’ for our societies and the environment has been a topic of ongoing debate. This brief is a simple overview of some of the costs and benefits associated with trade, and why it is an important subject.



Global economies increasingly depend upon international trade to deliver their goods and services, and, in recent years, there has been an explosion of information and data that should – in theory – help to unpack the complexity of global supply chains. This brief shows how supply chain actors and policy makers have a large role to play as ‘info-mediaries’ who enable information disclosure, supporting the development of monitoring and assessment frameworks into which these data solutions can feed.


The development of global agricultural value chains has been widely promoted as an economic development strategy in recent years. However useful for GDP growth, the intensification of production and global trade has imposed a heavy burden on the planet and people, with negative impacts such as deforestation and associated increase in carbon emissions, violation of human rights and impoverishment of rural livelihoods. This article highlights one framework to understand the social impacts of trade, underlines how mainstream value-chain approaches have a limited effectiveness, and calls for a better
coordination on the delivery of global sustainable development goals.



Part 1 of this paper introduces  readers to the state of the world’s biodiversity, as well as drivers and
impacts of biodiversity loss. Part 2 then reviews international commitments, instruments, nature-related priorities, and the state of play on relevant international policymaking. In Part 3, the paper explores linkages between trade flows and biodiversity. Part 4 focuses on the intersection of trade policy and biodiversity goals, while Part 5 reviews supply-chain initiatives, including those led by stakeholders across the wider trade and biodiversity landscape. Finally, the paper proposes a number of priority areas for enhanced policy dialogue, research and action.


As part of UKRI GCRF TRADE Hub’s work on the impacts of global agricultural trade on
people, a literature review of the social impacts of coffee trade and the effects of policy
interventions as empirically found in studies was undertaken. This was with the overarching
aim of understanding the social impacts of coffee trade, and how these are modified by
interventions. To assess this, the concept of multi-dimensional well-being was employed.


This report, as part of UKRI GCRF TRADE Hub’s work on the impact of global agricultural trade on people, presents a systematic literature review of the direct and indirect social impacts of soybean agricultural production for trade. The report employs the concept of multi-dimensional well-being to classify the various direct social impacts that have been found in the literature and the concept of ecosystem services to classify the indirect social impacts, i.e., contribution to well-being of natural ecosystems.

REPORT     2021

This report by the GCRF TRADE Hub provides an overview of how social and environmental criteria have been addressed in international trade relations, with emphasis on the Brazilian grain and beef markets.

Also available in Portuguese here.

REPORT     2020

This report is the GCRF TRADE Hub’s contribution to the Dasgupta Review, and it formed the basis for Chapter 15 – Trade and the Biosphere in the Review. Click here for the full Dasgupta Review of the Economics of Biodiversity

REPORT     2020

The role of traders and banks involved in the Brazil-China soy supply chain

REPORT     2020

A focus on blockchain to enhance the traceability of soy

REPORT     2019

A summary focusing on soft commodity supply chains


REPORT     2020

This report takes stockof the existing literature and data, analysing the evolution of global soybean trade flows and the related implications for society and environment.



Pathways Forward

This paper is the output of a project on greening international trade at the Global Governance Centre, the Forum on Trade, Environment & the SDGs (TESS) and Chatham House, the Royal Institute of International Affairs, funded by WWF-UK. It was produced in collaboration with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Trade, Development and Environment (TRADE) Hub, financed by the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF).


REPORT     2020

A report on sustainable resource trade and the role of trade policy therein, developed by the UNEP Global Resource Panel, and UNEP- Environment and Trade Hub was launched by  UNEP Executive Director Inger Anderson during the WTO Trade and Environment week.

The report revealed that many resource-intensive processes have shifted from high-income importing countries to low-income resource exporting countries, with a corresponding shift in associated environmental burden. The report indicates that appropriate policies are needed to address these adverse impacts of trade and outlines options for policy action at the multilateral and the regional level, in the overall context of a global move towards a circular economy.





Submitted to the University of Cambridge in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the Degree of Master of Studies in Sustainability Leadership


Masters Thesis submitted to the University of Copenhagen