About the Accountability  Framework

The Accountability Framework initiative is a collaborative effort to establish common definitions, norms, and good practices for delivering on companies’ ethical supply chain commitments. The framework will fill in vital detail that is missing from high‐level pledges, while helping to align a multitude of other efforts to implement commitments, foster transparency, and track progress. The framework is being developed by a coalition of leading environmental and social NGOs in consultation with private companies, government, and other stakeholders.

The Challenges

In recent years, growing public concern over climate change, biodiversity loss, environmental degradation, and human exploitation has elevated corporate responsibility to an urgent imperative. Hundreds of forward-thinking business leaders have pledged to transform their agriculture and forestry production systems and supply chains to protect ecosystems, people, and communities. These commitments support important global initiatives, including the Paris Climate Agreement, the New York Declaration on Forests, and the Bonn Challenge for landscape restoration.

Yet companies seeking to honor their commitments are often unclear about the path forward, despite the recent proliferation of tools and initiatives intended to help. In this context, two major obstacles impede progress:

There is little harmonization among different systems and initiatives to support implementation of commitments: key terms and concepts are not clearly or consistently defined, and there is no alignment between frameworks and tools for specific commodities, regions, and biomes. Thus, there is no standard way to assess progress or outcomes. The lack of broad-based consensus of environmental and social NGOs has created further ambiguity regarding expectations for responsible supply chains.

Key implementation tools and guidance are lacking, particularly in relation to monitoring, verification, and reporting of progress toward commitments. Absent common, accepted approaches, accountability will remain weak and companies will continue to face significant supply chain risk.

The imperative for a clear and consensus-based accountability framework is already evident: as target dates for 2020 commitments approach, many companies have not met interim milestones; they are reporting only on activities, not results; and they are facing large implementation challenges. Unless NGOs, business leaders, and other stakeholders work together to develop a common framework that is credible yet practical, the result is likely to be greenwashing in lieu of broad progress, widespread displacement of impacts, and continuing social and environmental risk for companies.

As 2020 commitment deadlines approach, the Accountability Framework will help accelerate the maturation and standardization of implementation efforts by companies, service providers, government, and civil society. By 2020 and beyond, widespread application of credible, flexible, yet globally consistent approaches will catalyze a sharp decline in commodity-linked ecosystem destruction and human exploitation. The result will be demonstrable progress toward the fulfillment of key global sustainability targets.

The Solution

To support the effective implementation of corporate commitments, the Accountability Framework initiative is developing a common set of norms and guidelines for companies and other stakeholders working to eliminate ecosystem destruction and human exploitation from commodity supply chains. These norms are being developed by a coalition of respected conservation and human rights NGOs from around the world, in close consultation with the private sector, to establish a harmonized global reference that is applicable across commodities and regions.

As the Accountability Framework develops, elements will be integrated into various monitoring tools, platforms, regional initiatives, and services that support responsible production and sourcing. By creating an umbrella of harmonized norms, the framework will enhance the credibility and legitimacy of other tools to address social and environmental risk in supply chains. It will also help companies better navigate and utilize these tools across disparate commodities and geographies in support of their global sustainability goals. Finally, it will enable the tracking and management of progress at larger national or subnational scales, or relative to global pledges such as the New York Declaration on Forests.

Interviewing a palm plantation worker in Kalimantan, Indonesia.
Interviewing a palm plantation worker in Kalimantan, Indonesia.

As 2020 commitment deadlines approach, the Accountability Framework will help accelerate the maturation and standardization of implementation efforts by companies, service providers, government, and civil society. By 2020 and beyond, widespread application of credible, flexible, yet globally consistent approaches will catalyze a sharp decline in commodity-linked ecosystem destruction and human exploitation. The result will be demonstrable progress toward the fulfillment of key global sustainability targets.

The Goals

Halt deforestation

Halt deforestation

Protect other natural ecosystems

Protect other natural ecosystems

Respect community land rights

Respect community land rights

Protect human rights & labor rights

Protect human rights & labor rights

The Framework

The Accountability Framework will define a clear pathway for responsible action on the ground and across supply chains by developing a set of consensus-based implementation norms.

What’s in the framework
  • Common definitions of key terms and concepts related to forests and natural ecosystems, deforestation, restoration, community rights, and others
  • Guiding principles for good practice related to supply chain mapping, monitoring, verification, reporting, claims, and other aspects
  • Specific operational guidance on these topics
  • Guidelines for addressing currently undefined or ambiguous scenarios related to the implementation of commitments
How the framework is being developed
  • Working groups consisting of key stakeholders and experts are being convened to develop Framework elements on forests and ecosystems, social accountability, verification, and reporting and disclosure.
  • Regional liaisons are informing and involving stakeholders in key tropical producing regions: South America, Africa, and southeast Asia.
  • Other interested stakeholders are invited to contribute to the framework development through consultations and review of draft framework elements.
  • Company input will help ensure that the framework is fit-for-purpose, with clear and practical implementation norms.
How the framework will be used
  • The framework’s common norms will be incorporated into a range of monitoring tools, platforms, regional initiatives, and implementation efforts by companies and their service providers. These include initiatives such as Global Forest Watch, the High Carbon Stock approach, and the Collaboration on Forests and Agriculture in South America.
  • The framework will be localized and adapted to specific commodities and regions; this avoids the need to build systems from ground-up and facilitates harmonization.
  • Implementation tools and initiatives can benchmark against the framework; this offers companies a single clear reference for supply chain management and can help enhance the credibility and legitimacy of effective implementation systems.
  • Clear and comparable reporting data, based on Accountability Framework guidance, will inform more accurate reporting of progress at the level of companies, national and sub-national jurisdictions, and global targets.

Our Theory of Change

The aim of the Accountability Framework initiative is to protect ecosystems and improve the wellbeing of people and communities in commodity-producing landscapes. These impacts will be realized through the fulfillment of supply chain commitments by the year 2020 and beyond.

Output

An accountability framework for ethical supply chain commitments that includes definitions, principles, norms, and operational guidance to fill critical gaps in existing initiatives.

Outcome

Common principles and good practices for accountability and transparency are widely understood, accepted, and applied by companies, service providers, government, civil society, and opinion leaders.

Impact

Wide application of the framework results in dramatic reductions in commodity-linked ecosystem destruction and human exploitation. Efforts of companies and governments collectively advance broader targets and support sector transformation.

Project Timeline

  • 2017

    Develop the global guiding principles and implementation guidance related to verification and other priority needs

  • 2018

    Continue Framework design while beginning implementation process

  • 2018-2020

    Implementation, scale up, and regional adaptation of the Framework

Steering Group

The Accountability Framework initiative is led by a civil society coalition representing social and environmental issues from both global and producing country perspectives. Founding members of the steering group represent the following organizations:

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