Back in 2015, excitement was running high as hundreds of companies issued new pledges to eliminate deforestation and human exploitation from commodity supply chains. Yet, to some organisations working on the front lines, the challenges of implementing these commitments and establishing clear accountability were already apparent.
What began as a few conversations on conference panels and in oil palm groves soon crystallised into an urgent need: to change business as usual to protect forests and people, we need clear rules of the game. To achieve progress at scale, we need consensus and alignment that move us beyond individual opinions and one-off activities to a common approach that guides effective action from primary producers up to multinational businesses and global monitoring systems.
With this clarity of purpose, Rainforest Alliance co-convened a pair of inception workshops with dozens of other environmental and social NGOs and experts to make this vision a reality. From these early thought partners, a founding Coalition came together in late 2016 to launch the Accountability Framework initiative (AFi).
Building a Framework
From 2017 through early 2019, we focused on developing a comprehensive and consensus-based framework to guide effective goal-setting, implementation, and monitoring for ethical supply chains. The AFi Steering Group led development of the Accountability Framework through an open consultative process with multiple rounds of stakeholder engagement. This happened both globally and in tropical regions, such as Latin America, West and Central Africa, and Southeast Asia. A broad range of stakeholders participated. These included civil society, companies from all stages of the value chain, government representatives, service providers, and subject matter experts.
We incorporated this valuable feedback into the full Accountability Framework, which was launched in June 2019. The Framework reflects the consensus of all Steering Group members that participated in its development.
Following the release of the Framework, we expanded our focus to include promoting and supporting the Framework’s widespread application. To pursue this goal, in 2020 our Coalition expanded to welcome a new set of supporting partners. As a result of our Coalition’s work, diverse users are applying the Framework to help improve implementation on the ground, better manage complex supply chains, strengthen accountability, and align efforts across different actors and contexts.
Supporting responsible supply chains for the future
As companies and the global community develop new solutions and respond to emerging sustainability challenges, we are also evolving to continue providing practical, consensus-based guidance and resources to support progress.
We collect feedback from companies and Framework users on an ongoing basis to identify needs and opportunities to support responsible supply chains. This feedback informs our ongoing work to provide companies and other stakeholders with the premier practical reference on ethical supply chains. These new resources remain grounded in the Accountability Framework’s Core Principles and in global consensus.