Launch of the Forum on Trade, Environment & the SDGs

The Graduate Institute and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) are proud to announce the launch of the Forum on Trade, Environment & the SDGs (TESS). This new partnership was created to support dialogue and action on trade policy to address urgent global environmental crises and advance implementation of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

TESS aims to serve the trade, environment and sustainable development communities through a versatile, nimble, needs-driven and outcome-focused set of activities designed to catalyse collaborative policy action. Mandated to ‘connect, inform, analyse and empower,’ the work of TESS will combine public facing events and policy briefs; expert and stakeholder roundtables; and off-the-record informal consultations.

With a primary focus on multilateral processes based in International Geneva, a core goal of TESS is to foster more inclusive dialogue, with an emphasis on supporting engagement of developing country governments and stakeholders, and promoting interaction between the trade, environment and sustainable development policy communities.

In 2021, a core focus of TESS is to support informed, action-oriented dialogue on the trade and sustainability interface in the lead up to the WTO’s 2021 Ministerial Conference, working with the diversity of actors keen to renew attention to multilateral cooperation and identify ways forward.

Priority themes for TESS include:

  • climate change mitigation and adaptation,
  • biodiversity loss, natural resources and sustainable agriculture,
  • plastic pollution,
  • circular economy and sustainable production and consumption (SCP),
  • trade in environmental goods and services, and
  • green Aid for Trade.

Cross-cutting areas of work will include international sustainability standards; green trade finance; green trade classifications; sustainable and resilient supply chains; and implementation of trade provisions in multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs). In all its work, TESS will work to connect the dots between intersecting environment and trade topics and emphasise the importance of advancing progress on the SDGs.

TESS is based at the Graduate Institute in Geneva, where it is housed at the Geneva Trade Platform. Drawing on the expertise, experience and networks of a small core team of staff, TESS will work through partnerships, with the explicit goal of adding value to, connecting and supporting existing efforts of a diversity of international stakeholders.

Key to advancing this vision will be advice and support from the TESS Steering Committee and an International Advisory Network, which draws together a regionally diverse group of experts from leading international organisations, stakeholder organisations (private sector and civil society), think tanks, academic and research centres. We are delighted to have the support of so many colleagues around the world committed to advancing the sustainable trade agenda.

Together with the Graduate Institute and UNEP, we at TESS are grateful for founding financial support from the French Ministry of Economy and Finance. The launch of TESS has relied up on the support of wonderful colleagues at the Graduate Institute and at UNEP, and feedback from a broad range of colleagues around the world. I would especially like thank Anja von Moltke, Head of UNEP’s Environment and Trade Hub, for her engagement in making this joint endeavour a reality.

To join the TESS community, follow us on twitter @TESSForum and sign up for TESS updates at

We look forward to working with you to take the sustainable trade conversation forward!

Stay informed