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Visualising a greener HS

A Symposia Series

START DATE 05 октября 2022
END DATE 23 января 2023
LOCATION Hybrid (Online / WCO Headquarters, Brussels)


Customs plays a pivotal role working with other agencies at the border contributing to the fight against climate change and to ensuring greater environmental sustainability by supporting effective implementation of various Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs), whose objectives include among others, addressing the illicit trade in hazardous waste and ozone-depleting substances, combating the illicit trade in endangered species, etc.

The world is facing transformations and production is organized into global value chains trying to produce more sustainable goods not only for today, but for tomorrow. Trade and trade policy can effectively support a circular economy transition extending the product life cycle, repairing, recycling and/or reusing products at different stages of the value chain.



Following on from the WCO Green Conference, the goal of the symposia series is to seek actionable ideas to make the 2027 edition of the HS increasingly green, bearing in mind that the United Nations 2023 Agenda for Sustainable Development recognises the importance of international trade to ensure greater environmental sustainability, promoting development and economic growth.

Involving Customs administrations, HS stakeholders and users in a series of symposia gives another way for the HSC and the WCO Secretariat to engage in the necessary conversations to support this work. The stakes are high as the need for HS support of green policy measures is being increasingly identified by Members and other Intergovernmental Organisations.

Greening the HS, using a carefully framed method for separately identifying goods which are of environmental significance, will make it possible to bring more transparency and predictability to commercial operations involving these types of goods, and support policy measures to reduce the impact of trade on the environment.

Another objective of monitoring such goods would be to combat threats to sustainable development, the illicit trade in wild fauna and flora, the illicit exploitation of forestry, fisheries and mining resources, and waste which threatens international safety as well as economic growth and development.


The Sessions

The speakers for the discussion panels will be announced closer to the events. If you wish to nominate as a potential speaker, please contact us at HS.Symposia@wcoomd.org.

1.- Expanding food horizons - recognizing agricultural diversity for sustainable global food security
Wednesday 5 October 2022 (13:00 – 16:00 CET)

Climate change and environmental degradation are serious threats to food security. The changing climate will increase the risk of major crop failures and makes the current reliance on a very limited range of staple foods a serious risk. However, tracking trade in emerging new crops that are better fitted to changing climate is difficult without HS support. In addition, new foods, such as those produced from micro-organisms, and changing agricultural technology, needs to be considered. HS 2022 introduced separate provisions for oils from micro-organisms and insects, but this is just the beginning of what may need consideration.


2.- Chemicals - reflecting the good, the bad and the revolutionary
Tuesday 25 October 2022 (13:00 – 16:00 CET)

Chemicals with a negative environmental impact that are controlled under international conventions have always been reflected within the HS. However, the pace of change is such that these only touch on a fraction of the chemicals which governments either control or are considering controlling. The question of how the HS can respond to this need is a major issue. In addition to chemicals with a negative impact, there is also the question whether there are chemicals with a positive impact, for example chemicals used in cleaning dangerous substances from wastes, which should be reflected in the HS.


3.- The textile industry: the interaction between textiles and the environment
Tuesday 8 November 2022 (12:00 – 15:00 CET)

The interaction between textiles and the environment is a matter of serious concern: there is no doubt that certain textiles have a negative impact on the environment in terms of water consumption and pollution, the use of pesticides, CO2 emissions and the volume of textile waste. On the other hand, technological progress has enabled some other textile products to contribute towards protecting the environment, fighting pollution and reducing the effects of climate change; they include agrotextiles, geotextiles and textiles for heat and sound insulation. The Customs identification of textiles which are environmentally friendly, and those which are not, is a delicate task which requires serious thought about the possible role that the HS could play in such a process.


4.- Reflecting the lifecycle of the basic materials - plastics, metals, wood and other sustainable alternatives
Thursday 1st December 2022 (12:00 – 15:00 CET)

The circular economy is another possible focus area for a sustainable development strategy. Its objective is to produce goods and services while strictly limiting the consumption and waste of raw materials, and of non-renewable energy sources. However, among the various issues for the HS in relation to the circular economy concept, one of the issues is that, for the majority of goods, it does not have divisions that relate to whether materials are virgin or recycled, or whether or not wastes are suitable for recovery operations. There are many issues of how such attributes could be identified at the border. So how could the HS reflect trade moving towards a more circular economy model?


5.- The environmental credentials of technology - can we identify the green status of equipment?
Monday 23 January 2023 (12:00 – 15:00 CET)

“Green Technology” is a major area of interest for governments. With the scale of the problems faced, technology has a major part to play in finding solutions. However, this is a rapidly changing area and today’s environmentally preferable technology can quickly become overtaken by newer and better technology. So, the fundamental question is how can the HS identify what should be specified, for either its positive or negative impact?


PARTICIPANTS: The series of symposia are multi-stakeholder events that will bring together not only Customs administrations, but also representatives of IGOs, trade negotiators and environmental policy-makers, academia, private sector, NGOs, and international experts, they will be “open to all” events.

FORMAT: The series of symposia will be held in-person at the WCO Headquarters in Brussels. An online link will be provided to participants who wish to attend the series of events online. When registering, please let us know your preferred option as places are limited.

LANGUAGES: English, French and Spanish



The Report presents comments on the outcomes of the symposia series on "Visualising a greener HS”, organized by the WCO, with the financial support of the European Union, and were held from October 2022 to January 2023.

This symposia series aimed to give a more global focus to the discussions and to offer new perspectives to assist WCO Members and trade stakeholders. It was focused on what changes were needed to make the HS even greener in its future editions.

It was recognised in the symposia that the importance of the issues highlighted requires a concentrated focus on finding what can be done to adapt the HS to enable environment-related trade measures to be effective and efficient.

To turn discussions into HS provisions will require Members, IGOs, and the WCO to work together to bring these ideas into achievable proposals for HS changes.

Therefore, this document is also a call to action to ensure that these discussions translate into tangible results.


For additional information, please contact HS.Symposia@wcoomd.org