A new trend of business in the world, oriented to achieve not only profitability but also
good environmental and social performance, has given rise to a new term on the world
map of trade, the Biotrade.
Launched in the context of the Bio- Initiative of the United Nations Conference for
Trade and Development (UNCTAD), biotrade refers to all activities of collection,
production, processing, marketing of goods and services derived from native
biodiversity under the criteria of environmental, social and economic sustainability. The
biotrade is not just organic food; the biotrade is present in various sectors, such as the
cosmetics industry or the tourism industry.
According to the Union for Ethical Biotrade, there is a growing number of organizations
from the private sector looking to positively contribute to sustainable development
through good practices of social and environmental responsibility. In parallel, there is a
greater consumer awareness around the world about biodiversity.
Under the First Congress of Biotrade (2012), it was noted that in 2011, the biotrade
generated sales of approximately $2.3 billion, with an annual growth of 14%; however, it
is still a small amount in relation to their potential market worth over $140 billion. In
addition, bio-activities benefit more than 38.000 people worldwide.
Moreover, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), highlighted that the
progress of the green economy in six sectors (agriculture, fisheries, forestry, industry,
renewable energy and tourism) generates new business opportunities to developing
countries who are better positioned in order to capitalize those opportunities and take
advantage from the growing international demand (especially from the European
Union, United States and Japan) of goods and "ecological" services.
This trend has also meant new costs to companies and / or producers. There are more
than a hundred of standards or certifications to ensure that a product, process or
service fulfills the requirements. The certificates, in addition to being a cost, at one
point may represent an obstacle, especially for small producers. However, these
environmental labels or stamps, allows the consumer to identify a product or service
with environmental and social awareness, achieving greater acceptance and entry into
In Latin America, there are national biotrade programs in Bolivia, Colombia, Costa Rica,
Peru and Ecuador. There are also regional programs (Amazon and Andean) and the
biotrade facilitation programme (BTFP).
In Ecuador, the National Program for Sustainable Biotrade was established in 2001, the
Ministry of Environment serves as the political focal point and the Corporation for the
Promotion of Exports and Investments (CORPEI) serves as the technical focal point. The
program provides technical advice on the issues that contribute to the biotrade. Since
its creation, the program has supported over 40 initiatives with an investment near to $
In Ecuador, there aren’t statistics of the actual amount of exports of products done
under the biotrade standards, however, Ecuadorian exports related with sectors where
the biotrade has developed, are valued over than $7.7 billion in the last 5 years, with
growth of 68 % when comparing 2012 vs. 2008. The main products are shrimp and
cocoa. There are also other products such as yerba mate, seeds, pepper, vegetable
saps and extracts, canary seed, fresh fruits, which have experienced significant growth.
The main markets are the European Union and the United States, followed far behind
by Chile, Mexico, Russia, Japan and Colombia.
The tourism reached the 1 billion tourists in the world for first time on 2012. Ecotourism
is the sub-sector with the fastest growing within the category of sustainable tourism.
In Ecuador, in the period 2007-2011, there was a 21% increase in the number of foreign
entries, reaching 1.1 million in 2011. According to the Ministry of Tourism, 71% of
tourists visiting Ecuador consider it their favorite destination in Latin America. The main
activities are cultural tourism (73%) and ecotourism (21%).
The concept of biotrade is relatively new, but it has become a valuable tool for
sustainable development. The biotrade promotes good practices and guarantees the
conservation of nature resources, traditional knowledge and equitable sharing of
Thanks to its vast biodiversity and culture, Ecuador is in a favorable position for this new
range of opportunities. The success of this development proposal is directly related to
the implementation of support policies and public and private cooperation that allows
the total integration of smallholders and communities with the market in order to raise
the ecological level of the businesses and finally get a benefit to the country through
these new business opportunities.