BioTrade Principles and Criteria for terrestrial, marine and other aquatic biodiversity-based products and services



The UNCTAD BioTrade Initiative aims to contribute to the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity through the promotion of trade and investment in BioTrade products and services.

BioTrade is understood as activities related to the collection or production, transformation, and commercialization of goods and services derived from biodiversity (genetic resources, species, and ecosystems) under environmental, social and economic sustainability criteria. These criteria, known as the BioTrade Principles and Criteria (P&C), have been the core foundation that guide the implementation of activities of the UNCTAD BioTrade Initiative, the BioTrade programmes and other related activities since their inception in 2007.

These P&C are also implemented considering the following approaches:

  • Value-chain approach: The BioTrade Initiative and its partners see the strengthening of value chains as a critical element in facilitating good practices related to the sustainable use and conservation of biodiversity and in promoting the equitable sharing of environmental, social and economic benefits among value-chain participants (UNCTAD, 2007).

  • Adaptive management approach: 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 (UNCTAD, 2007).

  • 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, ecosystems and local communities (UNCTAD, 2007).

  • Sustainable livelihoods: Improves the understanding of and develops activities that contribute to sustaining livelihoods, particularly of the poor and vulnerable population (adapted from Serrat, 2017 and Krantz, 2001).

The BioTrade Principles and Criteria are applied in different contexts, from assessing social, economic and environmental impacts of a project and guiding elements to be included in a policy, to evaluating supply chains for financial or market initiatives and verifying good practices. As a result, the BioTrade P&C lay out the general guidance which can be and has been adapted for specific applications. They can also be applied both at the institutional (e.g. national or regional programmes) and supply-chain actors’ level (e.g. business or producer association).

The P&C are also in line with the objectives and principles of the biodiversity-related multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs), in particular the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and also support the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification and the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. Moreover, the P&C are also aligned and supportive of UNCTAD mandates, including the Nairobi Maafikiano, and will aim to contribute to the new post-2020 global biodiversity framework.