Brazil’s Atlantic Forest has been severely reduced in extent from agriculture and urban expansion.
Over the past three years dozens of companies have made ‘zero deforestation commitments’, establishing policies that set social and environmental safeguards for commodity sourcing and production. However these agreements are highly variable — some policies are quite strong, while others aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on. Furthermore, no one knows whether there will be follow through on the pledges. Will companies actually police their supply chains? Will they cut off suppliers who continue to violate human rights and chop down forests? Will civil society develop the capacity to effectively monitor these agreements?
A new initiative aims to bring some clarity to the sector by comprehensively documenting what has actually been pledged by individual companies and tracking progress on implementation of their commitments. Supply-Change.org, formally launched last week by Forest Trends, includes profiles for dozens of entities ranging from consumer products giants like Nestle and Unilever to commodity traders and producers like Bunge and Cargill. Each company profile lists the commodities involved, membership in various roundtables and certification bodies, rankings on various NGO scorecards, timelines for implementing various commitments, and progress toward meeting milestones.
For example, Unilever’s profile shows the Netherlands-based conglomerate has committed to 100 percent of its raw materials being sourced under sustainability criteria by 2020, a goal that was nearly half achieved by 2013 according to the company’s self-assessment. Cargill’s profile shows the commodities giant has committed to sourcing 100 percent of its palm oil from certified sources by the end of 2015.
The portal is still in beta, so many profiles are incomplete, especially among commodity producers based in tropical countries, but the site is nonetheless an ambitious effort to try to get a handle on the recent flood of commodity sourcing commitments. It takes a broad look at four major commodities — palm oil, pulp and paper, cattle, and soy — and notes the total area of production bound by certification standards. It also estimates the export value of production that has come at the expense of forests for each commodity.
The launch of Supply-Change.org was accompanied by the publication of 32-page report, Supply Change: Corporations, Commodities, and Commitments that Count, on trends in the sector.