Workshop summary: Who is doing What and Where on Biodiversity & Trade?

Key messages from the workshop:
● With a dynamic policy framework and businesses forging ahead, science is lagging behind on standards and guidelines for the assessment and accounting of biodiversity impacts of trade and of global value chains. There is a risk of overlooking the less visible benefits from ecosystems, biodiversity complexity, and the systemic nature of the risks.
● Common metrics and methods are needed for both business reporting and financial investors. Synergies between national and corporate accounting should be better explored.
● Many questions need to be investigated further about trade regulation and its implementation, as well as other relevant policies and their effects in countries outside Europe.
● Possible governance approaches need understanding how different complementary policies and initiatives in both in the EU and its trade partners can ensure biodiversity conservation.
● There is a need to better understand how actor constellations and market demands create unsustainable trajectories and lead to prioritisation of non-sustainable production systems over sustainable initiatives.
● Efforts could be prioritised by their power to leverage positive change, since a few commodities and countries account for the majority of the impacts on deforestation.
● Pioneering research is ongoing on finance and biodiversity, including within PEER. It focuses on nature-related risks, although green finance is also an emerging area. Main challenges are the lack of homogenised data and of reference scenarios.
● There is much interest in combining efforts based on data and on local case studies, for a variety of research questions. The need for interdisciplinarity was widely acknowledged.
● Pooling learning can also help us develop a research agenda.

PEER (, a partnership of 8 European environmental centres, is exploring ways to combine forces with a joint strategy in environmental sciences and to enhance research on ecological sustainability. PEER member centres carry out basic and applied research combining different disciplines from natural and social sciences.

Biodiversity is a strategic priority for PEER, and a working group has been set up to strengthen collaboration and develop a hub of expertise with a focus on four thematic areas:
- Biodiversity and international trade
- Biodiversity and health
- Nature protection and restoration
- Biodiversity monitoring
The goal of the PEER workshop on biodiversity and trade was to map expertise and competences in the different institutions and identify opportunities to strengthen our joint capacities to produce policy-relevant knowledge on Europe’s biodiversity impacts outside Europe and support policies for targeting these impacts.
Understanding the negative and positive impacts on biodiversity of international trade - and the levers to mitigate negative impacts - is of paramount importance for reversing biodiversity loss. The increasing acknowledgement of the need to address the impacts of European consumption outside Europe is also reflected in recent EU initiatives, e.g. proposals for Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive, Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD), the EU Taxonomy and the proposal for a Regulation on Deforestation-free products. In December 2022, parties to the UN Framework Convention on Biological Diversity adopted a global biodiversity framework which includes a target to encourage and enable business, in particular large and transnational companies and financial institutions, to progressively reduce negative impacts on biodiversity, increase positive impacts, reduce biodiversity-related risks to business and financial institutions, and promote actions to ensure sustainable patterns of production. But many obstacles remain to fully understand and quantify the biodiversity impacts of international trade as well as to effectively respond to these challenges.

The objectives of the workshop were to identify PEER’s in-house competences related to work addressing the multiple dimensions and interlinkages between biodiversity and trade, and to establish connections across the network with the ultimate aim of fostering innovative interdisciplinary research and cross-cutting approaches in support of national and European policymakers, industry and society.
The workshop consisted of short presentations by PEER researchers and experts pitching their work, intercepted by joint discussions on connections, synergies and gaps. The day concluded with a facilitated joint discussion to address the main question of the workshop: what could we, as PEER institutes, do better together than individually to support policies that target the biodiversity impacts of international trade?
The workshop presentations and discussions were organised as four consecutive online sessions:
1: Data, indicators and knowledge needs in assessing the biodiversity impacts of international trade
2: Business environmental management perspectives: approaches and methods to assess biodiversity impacts of global value chains
3: Law, policy and governance to mitigate biodiversity impacts of international trade
4: Biodiversity and the financial sector
In each session, diverse viewpoints arising from relevant work were presented and discussed. Several of the presentations concerned work that is about to start or ongoing work that has not yet been published. In the following, the discussions in each session on the synergies and gaps are summarised, including tentative conclusions as regards future work. It is acknowledged that the presentations covered only a segment of relevant work within the PEER institutes and in general. Yet, the ideas shared and coined at the workshop can provide important pointers for the development of a future research agenda on biodiversity and trade.

Session 1: Data, indicators and knowledge needs in assessing the biodiversity impacts of international trade
The presentations in this session included:
1. The IPBES Sustainable use assessment: the role of trade affecting sustainable use of wild species – by Andries Richter (Wageningen University & Research)
2. Assessing loss of nature from tropical agriculture – by Grégoire Dubois (Knowledge Centre for Biodiversity-Joint Research Centre)
3. Assessing invasive species arrival risk through global trade networks – by Louise Barwell (UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology)
Research is ongoing on the relative importance of the channels through which trade affects the sustainable use of species, which determines the net impacts. However, more field work is needed on the drivers and the effectiveness of policies. Spatial analysis of tropical agricultural crops and biodiversity maps provides further insights on the impacts of trade on biodiversity, although to get a full picture other complementary approaches would be needed, e.g. on land use dynamics and trade flows. The ecological impacts of trade flows in the European end of the value chains through biological invasions represents an area of research within PEER that provides another view on the topic.
Overall, the research effort is still insufficient. There is a need for more local case studies, notably to feed into larger international assessments, and for more analyses of global and bilateral trade data. There is not yet a consolidated research agenda. Among the current work streams within PEER, there appears to be many areas of common interest and potential synergies. Ideas for future work or collaboration include:
- Local case studies (field work)
- Pooling of data (e.g. on socio-economic drivers of deforestation in the Amazon). A first step could be to map data sources
- Analyses of trade flows and possibly of trade scenarios
- Development of standards for communicating about biodiversity impacts
- Linking data and indicators used in PEER research with metrics for business ESG reporting.
A number of knowledge gaps were identified:
- Metrics for assessing the benefits and costs of trade agreements in terms of poverty reduction and biodiversity conservation
- Measuring and modelling biodiversity impacts of agricultural land uses at different scales (farm, landscape, regional) and for different farming practices
- Understanding what governance and policy changes have historically resulted in alteration of trade flows and related biodiversity impacts
- Bringing Earth observation data together with other data.
The different institutions in the PEER network manage a lot of data and have diverse competences. There are overlaps in use cases (cocoa, coffee, palm oil...), as well as complementarities in research topics, both of which suggest opportunities for collaboration. In particular, interest was expressed in joining efforts on data, which could be used for a variety of research questions, and on local case studies. A joint contribution could be made to developing a research agenda.
Relevant resources:
- Trase database:
- Study (2021) carried out for the European Commission:
- ECOLEX database:

Session 2: Business environmental management perspectives: approaches and methods to assess biodiversity impacts of global value chains
The presentations in this session included:
1. Assessing biodiversity footprints for companies and products – by Eric Arets (Wageningen University & Research)
2. Insights into the current development of reporting standards for transparency on biodiversity impacts and dependencies – by Johannes Förster (Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research)
3. Biodiversity and ecosystem services in business sustainability: Towards systematic value chain-wide monitoring that aligns with public accounting – by Dalia D’Amato-Pihlman (Finnish Environment Institute)
Several challenges remain when applying footprint methodologies based on material flows to measure biodiversity impacts of organisations and products, notably regarding the definition of appropriate indicators and the comprehensiveness of impacts. Many initiatives are ongoing on the integration of biodiversity and ecosystem services in corporate and national accounting, and there is a need to support information exchange between private and public actors and to identify synergies and barriers. Developments are quicker on the business side, with a lack of agency on the integration of scientific data.
Ideas for future work or collaboration include:
- Discussing indicators and impact assessment approaches to assess footprints
- Making public accounting data on biodiversity and ecosystem services more accessible and useful for companies. Most biodiversity datasets are not open access for commercial use. PEER might help pool together open-access datasets
- Looking at how different indicators telling different parts of the story are valued by different frameworks
- Addressing biodiversity as a systemic risk (see also Session 4)
- Analysing the narratives and perceptions of different actors along the value chain
- Analysing power and accountability structures
- Analysing the potential and barriers for taxonomy policy and business reporting
A number of knowledge gaps were identified:
- How to ensure the fit of indicators and methods with user needs (business accounting, national accounting)
- Science is lagging behind on developing guidelines and standards for the assessment and accounting of impacts, while businesses are forging ahead and the policy framework is evolving. How to facilitate information exchange about impacts and dependencies between science, business accounting, value chain assessments, and national accounting? There is a risk of piecemeal development and ‘race-to-the-bottom’, of missing the less visible benefits from ecosystems (e.g. pollination…), biodiversity complexity, and the systemic nature of the risk.
- How to deal with different time horizons: corporate accounting focuses on short-term indicators while measures of biodiversity trends and impacts in SEEA EA are often longer term.
- Methods to assess impacts across complex international value chains and along the full chain inc. disposal and recycling
- Substantial data challenges to assess deforestation and forest degradation.
There is a need to look together at different approaches from different stakeholders, from company level to supply chain assessments. There is also a strong need for interdisciplinarity, to bring expertise on the different aspects: business management, accounting, ecology, and governance.
Relevant resources:
- Science Based Targets Network
- Pendrill et al. (2022), Disentangling the numbers behind agriculture-driven tropical deforestation,

Session 3: Law, policy and governance to mitigate biodiversity impacts of international trade
The presentations in this session included:
1. Upcoming regulatory reforms on business and biodiversity: creating efficient sanctions – by Anu Lähteenmäki-Uutela (Finnish Environment Institute)
2. Analysing the governance of telecoupled biodiversity effects resulting from EU-Latin American value chains – by Yves Zinngrebe (Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research)
3. Unilateral trade and investment regulations protecting extraterritorial or global environmental goods – by Till Markus (Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research)
The EU policy framework (trade regulation, due diligence…) is very dynamic and there is a need to investigate further its implementation and the effects on other countries - which may have regulations that do not match - and on local actors. EU and national trade and other policies have many direct and indirect effects (on markets, the environment, livelihoods) in countries outside Europe. Analysing actor networks and governance systems is also key to understand the effects and the conditions of transformative change. However, efforts can be prioritised based on leverage, as a few commodities and countries account for the majority of deforestation impacts, for example.
Ideas for future work or collaboration include:
- External effects of regulations, in particular of EU laws on business & biodiversity, with case studies of sectors outside Europe
- Socio-ecological dynamics, power structures (Latin America)
- Tracing causes of biodiversity loss to underlying power structures in telecoupled systems (challenging extractivist, post-colonial and growth paradigms)
- Agency in transformation of institutional lock-ins and path-dependencies:
• Understanding the telecoupled nature of governance systems
• Looking at biodiversity policy together with other relevant policies
• Understanding and conceptualising transformative governance
- Social capital and the configuration of actor networks for social governance.
In addition to these themes, several knowledge gaps were identified:
- EU compliance mechanisms (verification and legal response) are still very weak regarding environmental issues. How can this be changed?
- Legitimacy of unilateral /bilateral /multilateral measures, and how to draft unilateral rules compliant with WTO rules
- How to create fair systems for monitoring, reporting and verifying the impacts of regulations such as the proposed Deforestation Regulation and Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive
- International trade and business require standards. This exists for GHG emissions but not for biodiversity impacts. How to ensure that biodiversity complexity is taken into account? (See also Sessions 1 and 2).
Trade relations may not be as complicated as we think. Value chains are heterogeneous but are organised and introducing effective mechanisms could be transformative. Deforestation is a key issue. Work is needed to analyse the effects and possible solutions in all parties in trade relations. The institutions in the PEER network could work on the development of joint frameworks and comparison of case studies to extract conclusions or to build hypotheses and reflect them in other cases.

Session 4: Biodiversity and the finance sector
The presentations in this session included:
1. How climate change affects asset values and the financial sector: lessons for assessing biodiversity implications – by Suphi Sen (Wageningen University & Research)
2. Financial stability and biodiversity loss – by Marco Petracco (Joint Research Centre)
3. Leveraging financial insights for enabling transformative nature futures – by Maria Naranjo Barrantes (Wageningen University & Research)
Climate-related risks (physical or transitional) are now recognised as a threat for financial stability, e.g. by the Network of Central Banks and Supervisors for Greening the Financial System (NGFS). However, research suggests that these risks are not yet well priced in by investors. For biodiversity, the risks are more difficult to conceptualise and quantify. Research is ongoing on assessing the possible impacts of biodiversity loss on asset values but the literature is still very recent. Different types of data are used such as biodiversity or ecosystem accounting data, economic classification of activities, composition of financial portfolios, business data on ESG rating exposures, etc., therefore interdisciplinary collaborations are valuable.
Ideas for future work or collaboration include:
- Data on exposure, impacts and dependencies
- Biodiversity risks are indirect risks, how to quantify them
- Systemic risk is a major approach
- Performance of assets in relation to biodiversity but also to environmental co-benefits (there is evidence that biodiversity, SDG and climate risk-aligned assets can perform up to 30% better)
- Coffee and cocoa case in the TRANSPATH project (WUR): the link to SYKE’s project on Finnish-African trade relations.
There are still many knowledge gaps and challenges, notably:
- Lack of standardised workflows, from in situ assessments to financial assessments and risks
- Need for reference scenarios for biodiversity loss, similar to IPCC emission scenarios
- ESG ratings are often a “black box”. How to create transparency in risk ratings related to biodiversity?

There is a critical mass of pioneering research ongoing on biodiversity and finance, including in PEER. Research mostly focuses on nature-related financial risks. Another question, still little explored, is how the financial sector could bring a positive contribution to biodiversity (green finance). Work is progressing on the mapping of impacts and dependencies, but the lack of reference scenarios remains a challenge. Many of the research questions highlighted in Sessions 1 and 2 (how to channel biodiversity data, how companies can assess their impacts and dependencies) are also very relevant for the work on biodiversity and finance, so there are many potential areas for collaboration. Also, it might be of interest to look at how PEER could position itself for participation in standard-setting processes for corporate accounting, thus contributing to the convergence of efforts (e.g. Capitals Coalition, Science-based Target Network…).

Follow-up to the workshop
The workshop provided a partial map of the relevant expertise and initiatives across the PEER network, to be complemented in the next steps to promote the topic. The workshop discussions also improved our joint understanding of the existing science-policy interfaces, platforms, databases, research
approaches, and models that are available and/or should be developed to support the mitigation of the biodiversity impacts of international trade.
Building on the tentative conclusions summarised here, the next step will be to develop a coherent research agenda on biodiversity and trade, to be pursued in future collaboration within the PEER network and more broadly. Workshop participants and colleagues are invited to join the development of the joint research agenda. Strategic partnerships will be discussed in the light of joint opportunities for research funding (e.g. Horizon Europe).

Ultimately, we hope to strengthen the selected science-policy interfaces through co-production of knowledge with policy makers, industry actors, intermediaries, producers and consumers. Potential concrete outputs of the collaboration include e.g. datasets, indicators and tools proposed as global standards, joint proposal(s), policy briefs and scientific articles.