Trade and aid: how certification helps improve sustainability

Adoption of sustainable certification practices offers an important way of achieving the Global Goals, writes Tensie Whelan.

The traditional way of framing international trade solely in terms of profitability and economic development has led to environmental and social disconnects. Civil organizations such as the Rainforest Alliance have worked for decades to inject sustainability principles and standards into the global economy. Hundreds of major businesses are making ambitious commitments to fight climate change, halt deforestation, seek sustainably produced commodities and do right by workers and communities across their supply chains.

The combined value of trade they conduct reaches many trillions of dollars, dwarfing the combined budgets of government ministries working on them. For example, companies responsible for 90% of the US$33 billion global palm oil trade have pledged to eliminate commodity-driven deforestation from their supply chains by 2020 or 2030.


As such, there is a powerful argument that tapping international trade’s massive capital flows is the fastest way to scale up positive impacts. However, we should amend that ’trade not aid’ argument to ’trade and aid’ because the two are becoming increasingly intertwined.

Read more as published in International Trade Forum.

Tensie Whelan is a Clinical Professor of Business and Society.