About BioTrade

Overview of the BioTrade Initiative

The BioTrade Initiative has been implemented in three phases.

  1. The first phase started implementation in July 2003. It facilitated the sustainable trade in biodiversity products and services through innovative collaborative arrangements and supported developing countries in accessing new markets, thereby diversifying their production base in a sustainable manner.
  2. The second phase of implementation started in 2009 and focused in creating a policy environment that promotes trade and investment through sustainable use. The Initiative helped create opportunities leading to jobs, incomes, export diversification and rural development for populations, small and medium enterprises and multinational organizations engaged in the sector. In other words, it enhanced the livelihoods of rural and local communities in developing countries by generating not only economic but also environmental and social benefits.
  3. The third and current phase started implementation in July 2015. The overall objective focuses on mainstreaming BioTrade in relevant multilateral, regional and national processes, as well as on strengthening the policy and regulatory environment of BioTrade sectors. In this regard, the Initiative is, in parallel to mainstreaming and to its global implementation activities, focusing on tailor-made technical advice on issues such as:
  • Compiling and analyzing existing Non-tariff measures s for BioTrade sectors and products in key import and export markets;
  • Assessing the applicability and potential implementation of a “track and trace” or traceability systems for targeted CITES species; and
  • Mapping and providing recommendations for a BioTrade-friendly implementation of the Nagoya Protocol.



 Concept and Principles


Concept and Criteria

​The BioTrade Principles and their respective criteria were homogenized by the UNCTAD's BioTrade Initiative and the national programmes after extensive consultations in 2004. However, Thesethe Principles and Criteria have guided the activities of the BioTrade Initiative, the BioTrade national programmes and other related activities since their inception.

In addition, BioTrade programmes and partners are implementing activities following certain approaches:

  • Value chain approach –refers to the coordinated relationship established among all actors in the value chain. The aim of these alliances is to strengthen the value chain by sharing the associated risks and benefits.
  • Adaptive management approach – allows for the implementation of corrective measures in systems on an ongoing basis, based on a process of continued monitoring.
  • Ecosystem approach – based on a holistic vision that integrates ecological and social issues, as well as the interactions and processes that are involved in a productive system.
  • Livelihoods approach - strengthens the human, social, physical, financial and natural capital of people and communities to which BioTrade contributes.

Figure 1. BioTrade conceptual framework: mandates, principles and approaches

It is important to note that the set of BioTrade Principles and Criteria adopted by UNCTAD and national programmes in 2004  merely provides the basis for the minimum criteria to be met. National programmes may make the adaptations required by their national contexts. In addition, the Union for Ethical BioTrade (UEBT) developed, through a global consultation process, a specific verification framework to measure the compliance of its members in the natural ingredients industry with the UNCTAD BioTrade Principles and Criteria. UEBT companies are required to undergo periodic auditions and submit annual reports on their value chains recognized as BioTrade fulfilling.
The BioTrade Principles and Criteria should be applied both at the institutional (i.e. national programmes) and supply-chain actors’ level (i.e. business or producer association).

Since its launching in 1996, the BioTrade Initiative has benefited over 20 developing countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. BioTrade covers sectors such as personal care, food, natural medicine, fashion, ornamental flora and fauna, handicrafts, textiles and natural fibres, and sustainable tourism (see Table 1). Sales revenues of BioTrade beneficiary organizations, working with small and medium-sized enterprises and multinational companies, amounted to US$5.2 billion in 2012 – compared with US$2.3 billion in 2010.





​In order to turn trade into a positive incentive measure for biodiversity conservation, the UNCTAD BioTrade Initiative together with partners and beneficiary countries, is addressing the policy environment, supply capacity and market access through an intervention strategy that targets different problems at different levels of intervention. The context, implementation levels and applications of the BioTrade Principles is as follows:

Value Chain Approach

Why use a "Value Chain"?

In the context of BioTrade, the value chain approach is used as a tool to establish a joint vision and identify common needs and existing supply capacity and market barriers in order to develop intervention strategies. The value chain approach facilitates, among others: the articulation among actors in a value chain; the involvement of good practices related to sustainable use and conservation; and the equitable sharing of environmental, social and economic benefits among participants.

A value chain involves alliances among producers, processors, distributors, traders, regulatory and support institutions, which, departing from a market demand for their products and services, establish a joint vision to identify mutual needs. They work jointly with the aim of adding value in each stage required to obtain a sustainably biodiversity-based product or service. Value chain actors are willing to share the associated risks and benefits, as well as to invest time, energy, and resources in realising these goals.

Adaptive Management

The "adaptive management" considers that the identification of impacts on species and ecosystems as well as the continual improvement of BioTrade Initiatives are crucial for the implementation of sustainable practices. This approach allows the implementation of corrective measures in systems on an ongoing basis, based on a process of continued monitoring. In the case of management of biological resources, adaptive management is different from the monitoring of the impacts (environmental, social and economic) on the ecosystems and populations resulting from the use of biological resources. (Convention for Biodiversity Diversity, Addis Ababa Guidelines and Principles for the Sustainable Use of Biodiversity, 2004).

In the context of BioTrade, adaptive management contributes to the implementation of sustainable practices, the identification of impacts on species and ecosystems and the continual improvement of BioTrade initiatives. For instance, the BioTrade Initiative is supporting the elaboration of management plans as a tool to help BioTrade value chain actors to implement the Principles and Criteria. Management plans are also developed according to the ecosystem approach.

Guidelines for the elaboration of management plans for wild collected species have been developed by UNCTAD BioTrade. The guidelines use a participatory approach that facilitates the exchange of information among collectors, intermediaries and companies. It follows five steps:

  • Step 1. Identification of collection areas and collectors;
  • Step 2. Assessment of managed resources;
  • Step 3. Definition of good practices to be implemented;
  • Step 4. Definition of follow-up and monitoring systems; and
  • Step 5. Implementation of documentation systems.

Ecosystem Approach

The ecosystem approach is based on a holistic vision that integrates ecological and social issues, as well as the interactions and processes that are involved in a productive system. In practice, the planning of productive processes related to BioTrade initiatives is undertaken according to the ecosystem approach. This guarantees that the initiatives will be environmentally and socially responsible with regard to their impact on species, habitats and local communities.

The ecosystem system approach is core for the development and implementation of management plans, as well as for the selection, assessment, development and strengthening of BioTrade value chains.





​Mr Lucas Assuncao, Head of Branch, lucas.assuncao@unctad.org
Ms Lalen Lleander, Programme Support Unit, lalen.lleander@unctad.org
Ms Lorena Jaramillo, Economic Affairs Officer, lorena.jaramillo@unctad.org
Mr Rafe Dent Website, rafe.dent@unctad.org
Mr Malick Kane, Programme Support Unit, malick.kane@unctad.org


 Contact Us



Ms Lalen Lleander

BioTrade Initiative
Division on International Trade in Goods and Services, and Commodities
Trade, Environment, Climate Change and Sustainable Development Branch
United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD)
Palais des Nations, Office E-8022
CH-1211 Geneva, Switzerland.

tel +41 (0)22 917 2116 fax +41 (0)22 917 0247, lalen.lleander@unctad.org

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