Biodiversity is the natural capital base for a sustainable economy. The conservation of biodiversity and the sustainable use and trade of biodiversity-derived products and services can provide countries valuable opportunities for economic development and improvement of livelihoods.

To capture this opportunity, in 1996 UNCTAD launched the BioTrade Initiative to support the objectives of the Convention on Biological Diversity.  Since then, the Initiative has developed a unique portfolio of global, regional and country programmes as well as a network of partners and practitioners working in over 80 countries.

BioTrade is when a product or service sourced from biodiversity is commercialized and traded in a way that respects people and nature.

The BioTrade Principles and Criteria (P&C), developed by UNCTAD, is a set of guidelines for businesses, governments and civil society wishing to support the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, as well as the fair and equitable sharing of benefits through trade.

Today they are implemented and fostered by government organizations, business associations, NGOs, and companies in over 80 countries.







BioTrade Initiative






The BioTrade Principles and Criteria

  • Conservation of biodiversity
  • Sustainable use of biodiversity
  • Equitable sharing of benefits derived from the use of biodiversity
  • Socio-economic sustainability
  • Compliance with national and international legislation and agreements 
  • Respect for the rights of actors involved in BioTrade activities
  • Clarity about land tenure, use, and access to natural resources and knowledge




To implement the BioTrade Principles and Criteria, UNCTAD adopted four different approaches, which are:

  • The “value chain approach”, which involves actors from all parts of the value chain working together to achieve agreed goals.
  • The “adaptive management approach”, which allows for corrective measures to be adopted on the basis of ongoing monitoring of impacts.
  • The “ecosystem approach”, which takes a holistic approach to ecological and social issues and the interactions and processes that make up production systems.
  • The "sustainable livelihoods approach", which contributes to sustaining livelihoods, in particular of the poor and vulnerable populations.

Business and Biodiversity

BioTrade Knowledge Sharing and Self-Assessment Tool

This tool brings together information related to biodiversity-based initiatives, allowing users to connect with different value chain actors and benchmark their sustainability practices against the BioTrade Principles and Criteria developed by UNCTAD.


BioTrade Knowledge Sharing Platform

The BioTrade Initiative communicates with partners through this password protected, "CommunityCloud" knowledge-sharing platform, which is used to share information and relevant documentation among a select number of members.


Post-2020 global biodiversity framework

2020 is a big year for biodiversity, because under the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) a new Global Biodiversity Framework is being negotiated. This framework will define targets and pathways for the conservation and management of biodiversity for the next decade and beyond.

Since early 2019, consultation workshops and meetings involving all stakeholders have been organized at the national, regional and global levels before its adoption at the 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP 15) in Kunming, China in October 2020.

BioTrade’s Involvement

As the United Nations agency focusing on trade, UNCTAD is steering, engaging and consulting with BioTrade partners and key stakeholders to contribute to the global biodiversity framework. UNCTAD’s BioTrade Initiative and its partners have been promoting sustainable trade of goods and services derived from native biodiversity under the criteria of environmental, social and economic sustainability. Moreover, UNCTAD’s role in promoting trade in biodiversity products and services have been reaffirmed for over a decade by its 195 Member States.