What will it take to ensure that commodity supply chains are fully protective of natural ecosystems and human rights? It’s no exaggeration to say that the future of the world’s forests, global climate stability, and the wellbeing of millions of people hinge on getting the answer to this question right.
The 24 NGOs behind the Accountability Framework initiative (AFi) believe that it will take action on many fronts to broadly change the way that agricultural and forestry commodities are produced, traded, and financed. This includes both individual and collective efforts; by government, private sector, and civil society; at scales from individual smallholders up to global systems; and addressing both environmental and human rights issues. Collectively, the members of the AFi coalition work in all these ways, using the Accountability Framework as a common reference and guide to support the transition to ethical supply chains.
Reflecting this vision for success and how we work, today the AFi is pleased to announce its new tagline: Together, making ethical supply chains the new normal.
What’s behind this new tagline and how did we arrive here?
Flash back five years to the mid-2010s, when great hope was placed upon voluntary company commitments to address deforestation and human rights issues in commodity supply chains. The Accountability Framework initiative (AFi) was established in early 2017 to bridge the gap between these commitments and action – a purpose reflected in its initial tagline, Delivering on ethical supply chain commitments. Two years on from the launch of the Framework, hundreds of companies are establishing supply chain policies, developing implementation systems, or disclosing deforestation-related supply chain risk and progress in alignment with the Accountability Framework. And many have gone far toward eliminating deforestation and human rights violations from their supply chains.
And, yet, the work is not nearly done. As is now widely recognized, even with good-faith efforts of producers, traders, manufacturers, and retailers, voluntary action by individual companies can only take us so far. Pre-competitive initiatives by industry associations and other collaborative groups are necessary to create coherent market signals and efficient implementation mechanisms. Standardized monitoring, reporting, and disclosure systems are needed to create a common language for business-to-business information-sharing and decision-making. Supportive public policy is essential to establish a level playing field for all companies – both in countries of origin and in commodity-importing countries. And new initiatives in the finance sector – including sustainable lending policies, risk screens, and performance metrics – play a crucial role in re-directing capital away from commodity production that causes deforestation or human rights violations toward investment in building responsible supply chains.
However, if these wide-ranging efforts are not aligned around common definitions, principles, and measures of success, they are less likely to be mutually supportive or lead to transformational change. That’s where the Accountability Framework comes in. By providing a standard reference for ethical supply chains, it enables these diverse efforts to act in concert and avoid reinventing the wheel for each new process, standard, or set of metrics. Since its launch in June 2019, the Framework has been widely used to do exactly this – including by:
- Creating consistency and alignment among major reporting standards, disclosure platforms, and corporate assessments and scorecards
- Informing industry and sector-level policies and guidelines for responsible supply chains, including in the soy sector, rubber sector, book publishing sector, and by the Consumer Goods Forum.
- Supporting the alignment of definitions and requirements between voluntary sustainability initiatives and public policy processes in the European Union, UK, United States, Colombia, Ghana, and elsewhere
Our new tagline recognizes the myriad ways that the Framework is being applied to shape not only the efforts of individual companies but also the broader enabling environment for commodity production, trade, and finance. It reflects the growth and diversity of the AFi coalition, with its collective capacity to drive progress toward ethical supply chains worldwide – from on-the-ground company support and landscape initiatives up to global disclosure and sustainable finance mechanisms.
The AFi’s new tagline also captures the ambition of our members: to make ethical supply chains the new normal. Not only is this necessary; we believe it is also possible – by working together as a coalition and with like-minded partners around the world.
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