About the Accountability Framework Initiative

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 frameworks, including the Paris Climate Agreement, the New York Declaration on Forests, and the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

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 concepts are not clearly or consistently defined, and there is little 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 consensus of environmental and social NGOs has created further ambiguity regarding expectations for ethical supply chains.

Key implementation tools and guidance are lacking on a range of topics, such as 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.

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. Furthermore, even where companies are cleaning up their supply chains, broader progress toward halting deforestation, ecosystem conversion, and human rights abuses remains very limited. 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.

rainforest river aerial
Interviewing a palm plantation worker in Kalimantan, Indonesia.
Interviewing a palm plantation worker in Kalimantan, Indonesia.

The Solution

To support the effective implementation of supply chain commitments, the Accountability Framework initiative is developing a common set of norms and guidelines for companies and others working to address deforestation, ecosystem conversion, and human rights violations. 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, companies can use it to help inform how they establish or refresh their commitments, take actions toward implementation, monitor progress, and support broader impacts (for instance, at jurisdictional scales). The Framework’s elements are also being integrated into various monitoring and reporting tools, regional and sector initiatives, and other efforts that support ethical production and sourcing.

Through these applications, the Accountability Framework will help accelerate implementation progress and improve accountability for supply chain commitments through efforts by companies, service providers, government, and civil society. By 2020 and beyond, widespread application of credible, flexible, yet globally consistent approaches can help catalyze a sharp decline in commodity-linked deforestation, ecosystem conversion, and human exploitation.

The Goals

Halt deforestation

Halt deforestation

Protect other natural ecosystems

Protect other natural ecosystems

Respect human rights

Respect human rights

Support producer & community livelihoods

Support producer & community livelihoods

Our Theory of Change

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


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


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.


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.

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