BIO-TRADE – Protecting biodiversity through regulating trade and international business

Tropical forest in Brazil. Photo: shutterstock / Ines Sacramento

International supply chains accelerate habitat degradation far from the place of consumption. Soya demand in Germany, for example, is associated with tropical deforestation and biodiversity loss in Brazil. As regards Switzerland, about 70 per cent of its ecological footprint originates from abroad. Trade-related biodiversity losses stem from the import of commodities associated with land use changes and deforestation, and from trade patterns that favour specialized, monoculture-based agricultural systems instead of diversified ones.

Project goal

The BIO-TRADE project analyses how the EU, its member states, and the EFTA countries can protect biodiversity outside Europe in a socially inclusive way by regulating trade relations, supply chains, and “no net loss” biodiversity policies. The overarching research question is: How can the EU and European countries – including Switzerland – regulate their impacts on biodiversity abroad in such a way that they contribute to positive social-ecological outcomes through effective, fair, and coherent laws and policies?

CDE leads the project’s “trade” pillar, focusing on trade-related policy levers to foster biodiversity abroad. The analysis will generate new knowledge on how EU/EFTA states can differentiate between products based on their biodiversity footprint in a fair, proportionate, and context-sensitive manner. This must be consistent with the states’ international obligations to incorporate biodiversity protection in their trade relations.


We use a “law in context” approach that combines legal and policy analysis with broader social science methods to critically analyse legal and policy phenomena in their social, economic, and environmental contexts.

Photo: shutterstock / Avigator Fortuner