A new formal partnership between Forest Trends’ Supply Change initiative and the Accountability Framework initiative (AFi) will provide valuable transparency on corporate progress on ethical supply chain commitments for forest-risk commodities.
Commercial agriculture is responsible for over 70 percent of forest destruction in tropical and sub-tropical countries. The majority of forest loss is linked to palm oil, soy, timber & pulp, and cattle. But in other regions commodities such as cocoa, rubber, and avocados have similar impacts.
Deforestation posed by large-scale commercial agriculture also fuels numerous legal, environmental, and social harms – including greenhouse gas emissions, water pollution, species loss, food insecurity, health risks, human rights violations, and armed conflict over resource use.
As public, stakeholder, and investor concern over these environmental and social impacts has grown, hundreds of major companies have stepped forward to publicly commit to reducing or eliminating commodity-related deforestation throughout their supply chains. However, overall transparency has initially been low, with corporate reporting scattered and not easily comparable. In 2014, Forest Trends launched the Supply Change Initiative, a research program and online information platform, in order to provide greater transparency on supply chain commitments and progress toward goals.
For companies, meeting their pledges has proven challenging. Many companies have run into significant difficulties designing, implementing, measuring, and reporting on ethical supply chain commitments. Recent tracking finds that less than one-third of companies with zero or zero-net deforestation goals have reported quantitative progress towards their goals to date.
In response, the Accountability Framework initiative (AFi) has put forward its Accountability Framework (“the Framework”) providing clear and consistent principles and guidance for setting, implementing, and monitoring supply chain commitments. The Framework specifies good practices for ethical supply chains, clarifies how companies can use existing tools, and provides new guidance and clarity on topics where it is now lacking. This enables companies to demonstrate progress toward commitments in consistent and credible ways.
“Without consistent standards set by the AFi, comparing commitments across commodities can be like comparing apples to oranges. The release of the Accountability Framework in 2019 provides companies with much-needed common norms and guidance for establishing, implementing, and monitoring their commitments to address deforestation,” says Philip Rothrock, Manager of the Supply Change initiative.
“Formalizing our partnership will generate insights on corporate uptake of the Framework and its principles across key commodities and sectors, and whether company actions align with consensus-based best-practices on issues like risk assessment, traceability, supplier non-compliance, or monitoring,” says Leah Samberg, a scientist at the Rainforest Alliance and member of the AFi Backbone Team.
The partnership builds on ongoing collaborative efforts between Supply Change and AFi since 2017. These include developed an aligned methodology and metrics to evaluate company progress and performance related to supply chain commitments. Forest Trends has also supported AFi in development of the Accountability Framework since its inception, together with a coalition of partners and supporters.
As a supporting partner of AFi, Supply Change will support valuable insights on how companies are adapting their commodity procurement and production policies and practices to align with the guidelines established in the AFi. Improved transparency on how the Framework is being deployed across forest-risk commodity sectors can inform future iterations of the Framework and improved communication with companies, civil society, and government stakeholders.
Supply Change joins other AFi supporting partners including CDP, Ceres, Forest Peoples Programme, Global Canopy, Imaflora, Lingkar Temu Kabupaten Lestari, NEPCon, the New York Declaration on Forests Global Platform, and the Rights and Resources Initiative. AFi is led by a Steering Group with representatives from the National Wildlife Federation, the Nature Conservancy, Proforest, the Rainforest Alliance, ResourceTrust, Social Accountability International, Verité, World Resources Institute, WWF, and independent experts Gita Syahrani and Silas Siakor.