Outcomes of deforestation-free commodity value chain approaches

This study – presented in a full report (link to report), summary (link to summary) and presentation (link to presentation) for policy makers and a scientific paper - assesses the impact of different approaches advocated to reach the objective of zero-deforestation value chains (ZD-VC) by six forest-risk commodities: cattle, coffee, cocoa, soy, palm oil, and timber. We used a discourse analysis, value chain and geographic nexus approach based on a review of literature. We identified six (often concurrently used) approaches used in the last two decades: regulatory approaches, voluntary sustainability standards – such as certification; landscape and jurisdictional approaches; corporate pledges – such as corporate social responsibility projects; public-private partnerships - including platforms, networks, associations, partnerships and agreements between private-, public sector, research and civil society; and due diligence mechanisms – including traceability mechanisms, third-party campaigns and investigations, voluntary disclosure initiatives and moratoriums.

We identify the discourses and (re)construct the theories-of-change (ToCs) behind these approaches. We present findings on how commodities drive deforestation directly and indirectly. Secondly, we look at the main geographic focus of ZD-VC approaches on already-known, historically deforested hotspots, taken by actors mainly from consumer countries which have high and increasing levels of forest cover.

Thirdly, we look at evidence on effectiveness of most approaches. Fourthly, we look at if and how ZD-VC approaches address the leakage of deforestation to other forested regions or spillover effects where other types of commodities or local market demands become drivers of deforestation. Fifth, we examine how political discourses steer preferences for different ZD-VC approaches, and differences of opinion on the drivers and solutions to deforestation and causality claims. We report on options for action by stakeholders such as origin, producer country- and consumer country governments, financial institutions, business, certification standards and their alliances, academic institutions and consumer organisations. We conclude with lessons learnt, summarising that as no single approach covers all the deforestation related issues encountered in commodity VCs, a combination of the best of the different approaches that encompass farm to landscape scales, could be a plausible pathway to more effective approaches which result in zero deforestation. Other critical elements are the enforcement of regulations and closing the loopholes in VSS, which undermine effective governance. A geographic focus on deforestation, and including reforestation and afforestation in the ZD-VC approaches are also key to success.