Knowledge for a sustainable world

Development Programme:
Sustainable Trade and Responsible Business

NRI has been working in this area since the late 1990s, supporting and analysing trade for development and corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives, gathering and drawing upon empirical evidence and field practice. NRI staff members have been actively engaging in assessing the impact of corporate codes and sustainability standards as well as trade programmes. The findings of this research, conducted in partnerships with southern researchers and research institutes, has informed policy-makers, standard bodies, NGOs, governments and worker and smallholder organisations. Governance and political economy research is also contributing to debates on the role and influence of standards and multi-stakeholder initiatives in agricultural trade.


The programme goal is to 'generate knowledge through critical analysis and action research on the potential and limitations of trade and business to support equitable and sustainable development'.


  • To improve the livelihoods and rights of workers in global supply chains
  • To enhance smallholder agency, livelihoods and environments by analysing existing trade and business initiatives
  • To assess the environmental impacts and promote environmental protection in trade and responsible business

Programme Theory of Change

Programme Theory of Change

Overall Strategy

  • To conduct critical analysis and action research on the impact and governance of trade and responsible business interventions for agricultural workers and smallholders to inform on-going policy debates and practice
  • To develop strategic partnerships with key organisations working on equitable trade and responsible business

Key themes

  • Methodological innovation and conducting studies in monitoring and evaluation of initiatives
  • Analysing on-going process of globalization in agriculture and the implications for disadvantaged agricultural workers and smallholders in the global South
  • Support the articulation of workers and smallholder voice in relevant debates
  • Build knowledge on how agricultural trade systems both depend upon and affect ecosystems and services and the implications for workers, smallholders and other value chain actors to contribute to environmental protection
  • Identifying and analysing approaches for more equitable trade and development