How ITC innovates in its programmes

20 April 2023
ITC News

As the United Nations marks World Creativity and Innovation Day, here are some examples of how the International Trade Centre (ITC) brings new thinking into its work.

Certified Business Registry

One million businesses have obtained sustainability credentials. But for companies that want to do business with them, there's no go-to platform to find them.

ITC has spent three years testing the Certified Business Registry, which gathers existing databases created by organizations that set the standards for sustainability, whether environmental or social.

As a start, the Registry is working with organizations that set standards in textiles and clothing. But with some 60 brands also participating, the platform is set to grow to serve a variety of other industries.

The goal is to build the world's largest database of businesses whose operations are certified as sustainable. Certification bodies, standard-setting organizations, and sustainable development initiatives will directly contribute their own data to the platform.

Multiple brands are also working with ITC and the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) to display product specific traceability on our Sustainability Map.

The Trade for Sustainable Development programme at ITC has already mapped the supply chain of 15 large corporations. Using a new UNECE standard, ITC can apply a common framework so that brands can report on their traceability.

AI avatars

The high demand for online learning spurred by COVID-19 prompted a shift in the format of e-learning courses at the SME Trade Academy at ITC, with greater use of video. Over the last three years, ITC has produced 150 hours of training videos. That's six days of continuous shooting, assuming there were no reshoots, plus even more time spent on video editing. This production process adds to what is already a busy work schedule.

However, with the help of artificial intelligence, teams only need to write the script. An AI tool takes care of the rest. Gone are the days of booking the studio, setting up scenes, finding talents, shooting videos and extensive post editing. Now a professional training course is produced in as little as an hour. The time saved from video production means our trade experts and multimedia team can focus more on course design and quality improvement.

These new technologies help make the most of limited resources and provides even greater support to small businesses around the world.

Trade intelligence

Across least developed countries (LDCs), 44% of their trade potential remains unrealized. Leveraging this potential requires understanding both opportunities and bottlenecks in trade.

ITC data, tools and analyses provide user-friendly trade intelligence for businesses around the world.

In Africa, the Value Chain Diagnostic assesses value chains on a continental scale, so that private companies can connect to them. This initiative put African companies and local partners at the centre of the research. Almost 11,000 firms, business support organisations and industry experts shared their views and experiences.

The resulting report identified 94 value chains with high potential for sustainable development, each linking to at least five African countries from different regions. Pharmaceuticals, baby food, cotton clothing and automotive emerged as especially promising sectors for small businesses.

ITC expertise and data on LDCs featured prominently at the most recent United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries, where both the LDC Trade Report 2023 and LDC Trade Tracker were launched.

The LDC Trade Tracker  allows users to monitor the trade of LDCs through thematic reports and interactive indicators, providing insights into trade development topics such as food security, commodity dependence, and export potential. 


Trade Briefs combines the most recent ITC data and research and presents it in a user-friendly, customisable, web-based format. Each issue explores monthly variations in goods exports across countries, regions, and sectors and reports on changes in market access conditions linked to temporary trade measures. Each edition features a spotlight of global relevance, for example, how the war in Ukraine affects food security, which tourism destinations suffered the most from COVID-19 travel restrictions, or how trade in environmental products evolved over the past decade.  

The Trade Briefs monthly newsletter has had over 15,000 users since its launch in June 2021, including journalists, policymakers and the general public. 

Job dating in Guinea

Over the last four years, more than 2,000 youth in Guinea received training to help them land jobs, through the INTEGRA programme at ITC. To make the leap from training to employment, the programme hosted the country’s first-ever Job Dating event for 300 candidates to meet businesses looking for talent.


21 April 2023
Voices from Guinea's first job dating event

Mental Health Week

Work-related stress combined with COVID-19 led to decreased mental and physical well-being among ITC personnel.

To address the issue, ITC took time in October to hold a Well-being and Mental Health Week that included exchanges, workshops and recreational activities. This meant sharing personal experiences and talking about stress management, with opportunities for activities like yoga and meditation.

This also allowed a chance to collect data about mental health at ITC, and design targeted solutions to relieve work-related stress, improve working conditions for women and young personnel, and break down stigma around raising mental health issues.

'Fireside' chat during Mental Health Week.

Here are some solutions proposed by our mental health taskforce:

  • work culture and capacity building
  • support and exchange, including the start of a Buddy Programme for newcomers
  • recreational activities like yoga classes and “Walk your break” sessions

Innovation with Digital Printing

Digital and printing may seem like two words that don’t go together. But in ITC’s digital print shop, we do exactly that – use digital innovations to provide printing services in a fast-changing world.

Today’s trends show that clients want small print runs, fast turnaround, tailor-made services, environmentally friendly inputs, a low carbon footprint, and rapid adjustment to new market innovations. Here are examples of how we innovate to meet those needs.

First, we customized the industry-standard ordering software. We structured it around our most frequent client requests, then made it intuitive and jargon-free – removing any guess work and technical barriers between users and printing professionals. The orders are linked to the machines, to speed up the process.

We then ensured that dyes are environmentally friendly, paper stock is FSC-certified, waste is properly recycled and ventilation systems are world-class.

We are now modernizing print publications by introducing their digital twins. These are not just simple PDFs and flipbooks on a website – we create fully digital, interactive publications such as What Makes a Winner.

The innovation doesn’t stop there. With our online statistics and constant informal feedback from colleagues, we make informed adjustments that increase efficiency and client satisfaction. For instance, we noticed a demand for posters, banners and even passport photos – so we added machines for colleagues who previously had to outsource and wait for weeks. We programme machines for night shift to meet short-notice requests for major events or for staff who travel.

These innovative practices significantly reduce turnaround time and costs. The ITC digital print shop is now more nimble and agile than ever and has been praised by Canon, our main equipment supplier, as one of the most efficient and innovative print shops in Switzerland.

Man at computer with two screens
Man supporting a banner being printed at the ITC Print shop

About the Innovation Lab

Founded in 2015, the ITC Innovation Lab is a grassroots collaborative hub for experimentation, learning and change at ITC.

More than owners of Innovation, the Lab provides a space and resources for ITC colleagues to create more inclusive and effective ways of working, ultimately impacting the MSMEs we work for.

The Lab works through the development of needs-based pilots, using user-centered approaches that will be handed over to respective owners.

Participating in the Lab is an opportunity to enrich skills in facilitation techniques, collaborate with colleagues across teams, and grow leadership skills, all while having fun.