Why trade is critical to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals

Research highlights how trade can be an engine of economic growth and an ally in the fight against climate change.

The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) and its members are committed to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and tackling climate change. ICC is confident that economic growth, job creation and investment in more sustainable trade are vital to reach those goals. 

How are trade and the SDGs connected? 

This publication shows that complex, yet measurable interlinks exist between assessing the sustainability of trade throughout the full environmental, social and governmental lenses.  

Using figures and data, it explores how trade can incorporate means of implementation of the SDGs, at a multidimensional and global level among them:  

  • redeciding poverty (SDG 1) 
  • promoting economic growth (SDG 8) 
  • responsible consumption and production (SDG 12) 

It focuses on the ways in which trade can be a central push forward in finding solutions to mitigate climate change (SDG 13). The power and means of trade actors to develop low carbon technologies as well as incentivising such creations is indeed a key advantage.  

The industry also requires standardisation in the key issues of emissions, definitions on what constitute or not sustainable trade. This provides a clear picture thus clarifying emissions allowances and effective decarbonisation strategies.  

 How can trade help mitigate climate change effects?  

An important way trade helps in the sustainable field is also through the complementary policies taken in liberalising and facilitating the low carbon trade behaviors, digitalised and new technology incentives as well as implementing robust and ambitious international trade agreements with active labor market and educational policies. 

Finally, it is crucial that trade is observed and analysed in a nuanced and multidimensional approach.  

Trade is not only a set of changes of goods and services which generates greenhouse gases. In a complex environment to understand such as sustainability in trade it can be appealing to use macro level of data such as non-tariff measures (NTMs) or Harmonised System (HS) codes.  

However, taken by themselves without taking into account the various fields mentioned above and in the study will inevitably give an over simplified picture that trade creates a negative contribution to the SDGs.  

How is ICC making business work for the planet? 

ICC is at the forefront of the action by means of its work, notably around: 

  • carbon pricing mechanism 
  • sustainable trade  
  • trade finance definition framework 

ICC encourages debates and throughout studies to be developed based on creative yet holistic and transparent methodologies which will allow a comprehensive understanding of trades effect in the sustainability fields. All efforts, studies and publications are certainly welcomed by ICC in order to get the best understanding possible on the complex and interlinked issues we currently face.  

ICC is committed in this area and this is evidenced by several key projects led by its Global Policy team notably through the Carbon Pricing Principles and the global involvement under Article 6 of the Paris Agreement as well as the current sustainable trade and trade finance definitions framework meant to clarify and set common standards for sustainable trade associated with its financing.   

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