European consumption causes biodiversity loss in the Global South – trade regulation is needed

News 2022-06-10 at 0:00
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European consumption causes biodiversity loss far away from the place of consumption and predominantly in countries of the Global South. BIO-TRADE research project sets out to contribute to protecting biodiversity outside Europe by analysing trade and supply chains regulations and “no net loss” biodiversity policies.

Production of everyday goods put pressure on biodiversity

European consumption has a high biodiversity footprint outside Europe as supply chains put pressure on biodiversity where commodities are produced. Timber, soy, palm oil, cocoa and coffee are examples of everyday goods the production of which is connected to biodiversity loss. Their production is associated with land use changes, deforestation, and specialized, monoculture-based agricultural systems.

“Through regulation trade, supply chains, and the foreign operation of European companies, European countries can, however, protect biodiversity globally”, Senior Scientist Anu Lähteenmäki-Uutela from the Finnish Environment Institute points out.

Lähteenmäki-Uutela leads the BIO-TRADE project, which was launched in March and aims to establish how the European Union (EU) and European countries can regulate their impacts on biodiversity abroad through effective, fair and coherent laws and policies. The project identifies how ecological and biodiversity criteria for sustainable production and products should be included in European law.

Socio-ecologically sound instruments for biodiversity protection

Requiring companies to avoid, minimize, restore, and offset the negative impacts of their activities and to aim for no net loss (NNL) of biodiversity is one mechanism to tackle biodiversity degradation. Yet, biodiversity offsets (BO) also pose risks for the enjoyment of human rights of people living at the impact or compensation site. Whether EU NNL and BO laws and policies with impacts outside Europe converge or diverge with human rights principles is therefore explored in the project.

BIO-TRADE aims to enhance knowledge and critical guidance on how European law can extent its positive biodiversity impacts to outside Europe and play a major role in reaching goals of international environmental and human rights agreements. Whether EU’s trade and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) strategies help or hinder coherent and effective regulation of global supply chains to safeguard biodiversity and human rights simultaneously is therefore explored as well.

Practical guide and capability workshop

Practical governance tools for actors inside and outside Europe will be provided. The conclusions of the whole project will be summarized by a practical guide for the EU, EU Member States, and EFTA country regulators and negotiators, the regulators and negotiators of the third-country trading partners, and for companies operating in distinct roles in the supply chains. The launch event for the guide will include a capacity-building workshop for the regulatory stakeholders to give practical take-home messages to all actors needed for the sustainability transition.

The three-year BIO-TRADE project involves four organizations, the Finnish Environment Institute, the Raoul Wallenberg Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law (Lund, Sweden), Centre for Private Governance at the University of Copenhagen, and the Center for Development and Environment at the University of Bern. The project is funded through BiodivERsA and Water JPI by four national funders: Academy of Finland, Swedish Environmental Protection Agency, Innovation Fund Denmark and Swiss National Science Foundation.


  • Senior Research Scientist Anu Lähteenmäki-Uutela, Finnish Environment Institute,, +358 29 525 2087
  • Senior Researcher Claudia Ituarte-Lima, Raoul Wallenberg Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law,
  • Senior lecturer Elisabeth Bürgi Bonanomi, Center for Development and Environment, Bernin yliopisto,
  • Associate Professor Carola Glinski, Faculty of Law, Kööpenhaminan yliopisto,