Professional Course

Sustainable Trade

edX, Online
10 weeks
49 USD
Next course start
Start anytime See details
Self-paced Online
10 weeks
49 USD
Next course start
Start anytime See details
Self-paced Online
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Course description

Sustainable Trade

International trade is a strong engine for poverty reduction, employment creation, innovation, and many other benefits. The important role of international trade for development is also recognized in the ambitious Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda. According to this Agenda, societies around the world need to achieve 17 goals and above 150 sustainability targets by 2030.

However, trade can also significantly contribute to sustainability challenges, such as climate change, deforestation, human rights abuses, and many other issues.

Against this backdrop, several initiatives have been developed to make international trade more sustainable.

In this MOOC, you will learn more about what international trade is, how it has grown and evolved, and how it is structured around Global Value Chains. You will gain insight into what sustainable development is and how international trade affects it, but also how trade can contribute to achieving sustainability goals. You will acquire knowledge about the different trade instruments that can be used to improve sustainability.

Upcoming start dates

1 start date available

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  • Self-paced Online
  • Online
  • English

Who should attend?


No prior knowledge is required

Training content

Introduction to Trade

Understand what international trade is, why it is important, how it has grown, how it has changed in nature, and what Global Value Chains are.

Trade and Sustainable Development

Acquire knowledge of what sustainable development means, how sustainability issues relate to international trade, and what role international trade can play to achieve sustainable development.

Trade Instruments for Sustainable Development

Gain insight into the different trade instruments that can be used to address sustainability issues, including preferential trade agreements, bilateral trade agreements and standards, and understand the role of the World Trade Organization in governing international trade for sustainability.

Voluntary Sustainability Standards

Understand what voluntary sustainability standards are, how and why they emerged, what they aim to achieve, and how they set standards.

How VSS work

Gain in-depth knowledge of how VSS work, in particular how they ensure conformity with their standards through audits and complaint systems, and critically reflect on their credibility as governance tools for sustainability.

Effectiveness of VSS: Adoption

Understand how VSS effectiveness can be approached, and gain insight on their adoption as a first dimension of effectiveness. Delve into the extent to which VSS are adopted across different units of analysis, and understand the motives and barriers for VSS adoption.

Effectiveness of VSS: Measuring Impacts

Explore the second dimension of VSS effectiveness: their impact on the ground. Learn about the pathways through which VSS aim to generate impact, how research on VSS impacts has been conducted, the different research designs that are used to assess VSS impacts, and delve into some examples of impact studies.

Effectiveness of VSS: Sustainability Impacts

Learn more about the currently available evidence on VSS impact along the different sustainability dimensions, get acquainted with databases on VSS impact studies, and reflect on the main issues and challenges in assessing VSS impact.

VSS in Public Policy

Gain insight into how VSS interact with other policy instruments with a focus on public regulations, trade policy, public procurement, due diligence and economic development measures, and reflect on the future of VSS as instruments for sustainable trade.

Final exam

Test your newly acquired knowledge on sustainable trade in a final exam, comprising of a quiz and short essay.

Course delivery details

This course is offered through KU Leuven, a partner institute of EdX.

2-3 hours per week


  • Verified Track -$49
  • Audit Track - Free

Certification / Credits

What you'll learn

  • Understand how international trade works and what global value chains are.
  • Acquire in-depth knowledge of what sustainable development is, why it is important, and what the challenges are to achieve it.
  • Become aware of how globalization, international trade and sustainable development are interrelated and appreciate the key importance of international trade to contribute to peace, security, development and the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
  • Gain insight into the different ways in which trade governance can deal with sustainable development.
  • Obtain in-depth knowledge of voluntary sustainability standards (VSS), also called eco-labels or certification schemes, as an important tool for global trade governance.
  • Grasp the emergence and evolution of VSS and gain insight into how VSS set and enforce sustainability standards.
  • Learn how VSS differ in their design and how this influences their credibility.
  • Become aware of where and to what extent VSS are used and how this varies across countries and time, and understand the motivations and barriers for the adoption of VSS.
  • Explore the pathways through which VSS aim to generate impact on different sustainability dimensions.
  • Acquaint yourself with the different research approaches and designs to study the impact of VSS, understand their respective strengths and weaknesses, and learn how to interpret research results.
  • Understand how VSS as private governance instruments are integrated into public policies.

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