What goes in and what comes out


The economic links between the UK economy and global ecosystems

It is increasingly important for governments and individual consumers to understand where the commodities we buy come from, and understand the environmental impacts of global trade ©Dana/Dreamstime


Described by Napoleon as a ‘nation of shopkeepers’, the UK is now a nation of consumers and investors. In 2005, we imported £280 billion worth of goods and UK business invested £46 billion abroad. The UK economy is near to the top of the league of global investors and this financial and purchasing power gives the UK the potential to exert a significant influence on the global environment, including biodiversity.


To identify the scale, nature and location of this global economic biodiversity footprint, JNCC initiated its Global Impacts Programme in 2005. With a functioning project website, partners across government and beyond, and a carefully developed strategic focus on key geographical areas, commodities and investment sectors, the programme is now showing results. With an initial emphasis on imported commodities likely to impact on producer country biodiversity, the website enables access to evidence concerning global trade and an analysis – from reports prepared by UK government, JNCC and non-governmental organisations – of the potential environmental impacts of these commodities. National biodiversity context at the producer end is provided through protected area data, national biodiversity action plans and Millennium Ecosystem reports, much of which is provided through joint work with the World Conservation Monitoring Centre in Cambridge.


Current project work is focusing on tracking UK investments into key economies and key business sectors abroad, and also on the global impacts of the rapidly developing biofuels industry. An underpinning programme philosophy emphasises linking evidence, analysis and policy whilst looking at key trade and investment partners outside the EU and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. The work supports key government international programmes, in particular Defra’s work with the Sustainable Development Dialogue countries [1] to promote sustainable consumption and production, and also the international project assessment work of the UK’s Export Credits Guarantee Department.

Dr Tony Weighell

UK Global Impact Adviser

Tel: (0) +44 1733 866902