Greening Global Trade

If you are an SME interested in learning how you can embrace sustainability principles and make impactful changes in your global trade practices, Global Trade Department can help

Global net zero emissions by 2050

Globally, coordinated change is paramount


Action targets


Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

Global trade pivotal in achieving change

Practical, low risk, phased approach

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There can be no doubt that climate awareness and pressure is mounting, at least amongst developed nations; the Paris Agreement and latest COP summit have served to raise the topic amongst environmentally conscious businesses and consumers. Companies involved in global trade and for whom sustainability is a core part of their ethos, are also becoming more educated as to the scale of carbon emissions in international trade and how that impacts the climate crisis. 

Carbon emissions are often considered the most obvious damaging impact of international trade, leaving many businesses and policymakers considering several important questions, like: 

However, sustainable global trade is about much more than decarbonisation. Greening trade requires a widescale review of trade and environmental objectives and a concerted effort to closely align them and implement governance on a global scale. 

Impact of global trade on the environment

1 %

of energy used by global transport supplied by Petroleum

1 %

of all transport-related CO2 emissions are from freight

1 %

increase in CO2 emissions in Africa predicted by ITF

1 %

of energy-related CO2 emissions in the transport sector comes from road transport with another 12% from air transport

1 %

of global merchandise trade by volume is transported by sea

0 %

rise in fossil fuel subsidies as a percentage of GDP between 2020 and 2025 despite 2050 carbon neutral goal

Greening trade needs strong environmental laws, regulations, globally shared targets, and institutions empowered to implement change. 

Trade policy can prioritise sustainability through environmental chapters in trade agreements; and said policy can then be enforced both ‘at the border’ (liberalisation of climate-friendly goods and services; Border carbon adjustments; Quotas or bans on ‘high emissions intensity’ products; International cooperation on emission trading systems) and ‘behind the border’ (Climate related standards, labels and due diligence requirements – government and voluntary; Trade disciplines on fossil fuel subsidies; Greening trade rules e.g. on subsidies, government procurement, investment, to support climate action; Investor-state dispute settlement provisions that safeguard space for climate action; Technology transfer and intellectual property rules that spur innovation and affordable access to climate technologies). 

Global intergovernmental cooperation can then be fostered through bodies such as green Aid for Trade, trade finance initiatives, green trade classifications and sustainability impact assessments. Whilst global education as to the importance of green trade and sustainable supply chains is also imperative. 

If building sustainability into your international trade objectives and activity, you may want to consider Global Trade Department’s Trade Sustainability Assessment as a means of understanding your business’ current impact and uncovering tangible changes you can make to reduce any negative impacts, boost competitive advantage, and increase your brand perception amongst a growing number of sustainably conscious customers. 

Global Trade Sustainability Assessment

Obtain an impartial, outside-in assessment of your current global trading processes and practices, with practical recommendations of how you can incorporate sustainability values and targets to meet future regulatory requirements and drive long-term growth.