50 shades of sustainability? A new tool for assessing the sustainability of wild species use

A new tool is being piloted by IIED and partners to bring a more rounded approach to assessing sustainability in relation to the use of wild species. The tool adds animal welfare and human health to the conventional ecological, economic and social dimensions of sustainability.

News, 03 November 2023
On large open land, with mountains behind, farmers shepherd a herd of animals.

Vicuñas are farmed in the Valle del Sondondo in Peru (Photo: Ministerio del Ambiente, via Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 DEED)

Last year the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Serviecs (IPBES) published an assessment report on the sustainable use of wild species. The report highlighted that 50,000 wild species are used globally, with one in five people relying on them for income and food.

This reliance is particularly true of the world’s poorest people - 70% of whom are directly dependent on wild species. Wild species use is also an important part of global trade.

However, at the same time unsustainable and/or illegal use of wild species is one of the key drivers of biodiversity loss.

Furthermore, in some instances use of wild species can have negative implications for human health and raise concerns about animal welfare. The Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework, adopted in December 2022, therefore includes targets to ensure the use of wild species is not only sustainable and legal, but also “safe”.

Sustainability is a complex concept and one that is technically challenging to assess. Nevertheless, an approach is needed that cuts through the complexity, is accessible to policymakers and practitioners, and can support a process of continuous improvement among wild species enterprises, initiatives and value chains.

Embracing different aspects of sustainability

IIED, TRAFFIC, IUCN SULi, Endangered Wildlife Trust and EPIC Biodiversity – supported through the UK government’s Darwin Initiative and under the guidance of a multidisciplinary expert advisory group – have developed a five-dimensional sustainability assessment framework (5DSAF).

The framework adds the dimensions of animal welfare and human health to the more conventional social, ecological and economic dimensions of sustainability.

For each of these five dimensions, it articulates seven key principles as well as seven cross-cutting principles that are relevant to all dimensions. These principles are derived from a wealth of existing international standards, frameworks and guidelines.

The framework can be implemented with a simple spreadsheet-based tool (xlsx file), allowing users to score performance against each of the 42 principles and identify areas where improvements are needed.

Feedback wanted

We’d love to hear from anyone who uses 5DSAF so we can improve the beta version and develop a tool that can make a positive contribution to supporting the sustainable use of wild species.


For more information, email IIED principal researcher Dilys Roe ([email protected]).