UKRI GCRF Trade, Development and the Environment Hub

Creating a sustainable world for people and biodiversity

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Project announced to make trade a force for good

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Sustainable trade as a mean to protect biodiversity


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The Challenge

Sustainable trade in wild species and agricultural goods can lift people out of poverty and create economic growth, particularly in low and middle-income countries.

In many places however, this has not been realised. Instead the exploitation of wild resources and conversion of land to agricultural production has led to severe degradation and species loss, wiping out local livelihood options and keeping people in a cycle of poverty. 

Due in part to unsustainable trade, the global community is at risk of falling short of international ambitions such as the Sustainable Development Goals and the Aichi Biodiversity Targets.

Explicitly addressing the challenges of trade and working together towards better practices that enhance sustainability will be essential to fulfil these ambitions.

Our solution & impact

As the leading organisation for the UK Research and Innovation Global Challenges Research Fund (UKRI GCRF) Trade, Development and the Environment Hub, we will work with over 50 partner organisations from 15 different countries - aiming to make trade a positive force in the world.

We will focus work on the impact of the trade of specific goods, and on seeking solutions to these impacts. The Hub will select trades that are already having, or have the potential to have, a major impact on biodiversity, as well as those that are important for local livelihoods:

  • live animals
  • animal skins
  • wild meat
  • bamboo and rattan
  • beef
  • cocoa
  • coffee
  • palm oil
  • rubber
  • soy beans
  • sugar

Emerging trades, for example in crops such as bush mango and the African cherry, will also be studied as examples of wild-sourced species that are being gradually domesticated into agricultural systems and that may have wider impacts on nature.

These various trades will be studied within eight countries, chosen for being in different stages of economic development as well as producing a wide range of wildlife and agricultural products: Brazil, Cameroon, China, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Indonesia, Republic of Congo, and Tanzania. These are also countries where UNEP-WCMC and its partners have strong existing ties and expertise, and a clear platform for gathering knowledge.

The project will study how different systems of trade have affected biodiversity from a biophysical, social, political and economic point of view, and seek to trace the impact of the trade throughout supply chains - from supplier to consumer countries via trading companies. As well as feeding into public policy advice, this research will also help companies understand their products’ true environmental impact all the way back to the raw materials.

The Hub will work closely with international and regional trade bodies, charities and corporate partners to design targeted recommendations for the public policy and corporate spheres, ensuring impact of the research and creating sustainable change.


Thumbnail image: Manuel Providencia

Expertise & Team

UNEP-WCMC has a strong foundation in interdisciplinary work around the world. Our decades of experience, along with an in-house team of ecological modellers, social scientists, economists, and policy analysts, makes us perfectly placed to advise decision makers at every scale.

Partners & Donors

The UKRI GCRF Trade, Development and the Environment Hub is a UKRI Collective Fund award, under the UK Research and Innovation Global Challenges and Research Fund (UKRI GCRF). As the lead organisation UNEP-WCMC brings together over 50 partners working all across the world in business, industry and academia, including: