Deforestation- and conversion-free supply chains and land use change emissions: A guide to aligning corporate targets, accounting, and disclosure

New guidance from the AFi, in partnership with the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) and the Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Protocol, is now available to support companies in taking integrated action to manage deforestation, ecosystem conversion, and greenhouse gas emissions from land use change.

This guidance is designed to clarify how the SBTi’s Forest, Land, and Agriculture (SBTi FLAG) project and the GHG Protocol’s Land Sector and Removals guidance can be used in concert with the Accountability Framework to help companies set targets, account for land use change, and disclose progress

Download the guidance now, and read on to learn more about this joint effort with our partners.

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Introducing the guidance 

Why is it important to integrate targets, accounting, and disclosure for deforestation, ecosystem conversion, and land use change emissions? 

Companies that produce or source agricultural and forestry commodities face a growing set of requirements and expectations from regulators, commodity buyers, investors, and civil society to address land use change in their operations and supply chains. These include:  

  • Expectations that commodity production and trade do not contribute to deforestation or other ecosystem conversion; and  
  • Expectations to measure, disclose and reduce emissions arising from land use change in their operations (scope 1 emissions) and supply chains (scope 3 emissions) as part of an overall corporate emissions reduction strategy.  

These two sets of expectations were previously quite distinct, each carrying its own sets of rules and conventions. However, both require companies to follow the same set of processes:  

  1. setting goals and targets to eliminate land use change associated with their operations and supply chains;   
  2. measuring and accounting for that land use change at multiple scales; and   
  3. disclosing performance and progress.  

With proper alignment of expectations and methods on these on these three actions across deforestation/conversion and emissions guidance, companies will be better able to manage for land use change and emissions reductions in an integrated and synergistic manner, with confidence that their efforts will be acceptable to their stakeholders.  

How do the Accountability Framework, SBTi FLAG guidance, and GHG Protocol Land Sector and Removals Guidance relate to one another? 

This year, new guidance from the Accountability Framework initiative, GHG Protocol, and SBTi will for the first time allow companies to account for impacts related to deforestation, ecosystem conversion, and land sector emissions in an accurate and standardised way. These three pieces of guidance are designed to be used in concert with each other. The Accountability Framework supports the SBTi FLAG process by defining good practice for necessary commitments to eliminate land use change and supports the GHG Protocol’s emissions accounting process by defining the types of land use change being considered as well as best practice for using traceability and risk assessment mechanisms to understand supply chain footprints. In turn, the GHG Protocol Land Sector and Removals Guidance instructs users on how to account for and report land use change emissions and related metrics in GHG inventories needed to track progress toward achieving SBTi FLAG targets.  

How have these initiatives worked to align expectations on forests and climate? 

A process of technical integration was conducted in 2021 and 2022 by the AFi, GHG Protocol, and SBTi to create strong interoperability between three pieces of guidance for companies working to address land use change and associated GHG emissions related to agriculture and forestry. This alignment includes definitions of land use/land cover types and of land use change events such as deforestation and ecosystem conversion and guidance on the scale at which land use change should be measured by different supply chain actors based on their position in the supply chain and level of traceability. 

Does this guidance contain new information not found elsewhere? 

All content related to land use change (LUC) emissions target setting is found in the SBTi FLAG guidance and information related to LUC emissions accounting is found in the draft GHG Protocol Land Sector and Removals Guidance; relevant information from both documents is only summarised and contextualised here.  

 Much of the content related to deforestation and conversion, including all guidance on target setting, definitions, and traceability, is found in existing Accountability Framework guidance documents.  However, information on best practices for accounting and reporting on land use change – found in sections 4 and 5 of this guidance – provides more detailed information on these topics than had been previously published by AFi.   

Target Setting

How do no-deforestation and no-conversion commitments relate to Science Based Targets for emissions reduction? 

 Commitments and time-bound targets to halt land use change associated with commodity production and trade play an important role in communicating intention, accelerating progress, and supporting accountability for corporate action. The process of target setting for both deforestation/conversion and emissions requires companies to understand their current levels of performance and to determine the appropriate level of ambition for their policies.   

Companies that produce or source agricultural or forestry commodities should set targets for both:

  1. no-deforestation and no-conversion in their operations and supply chains
  2. reductions in land-related emissions in their operations and supply chains, following SBTi FLAG guidance, which is part of the broader science-based target setting process

The SBTi also requires the publication of no-deforestation commitments as a complementary part of the FLAG target-setting and validation process. 

Accounting 

How can companies use this guidance to understand expectations for accounting for land use change in their operations and supply chains? 

In order to effectively set and achieve targets to reduce deforestation, conversion, and LUC emissions from operations and supply chains, companies must measure and account for land use change in credible and consistent ways.  

 This document describes how accounting for both deforestation/conversion and LUC emissions can be carried out using the same sets of assumptions, data, and methods. This includes:  

  • accounting for deforestation, conversion, and LUC emissions at the level of the production unit, for producers and companies that purchase materials from known farms, plantations, or ranches 
  • accounting for deforestation, conversion, and LUC emission at the level of a sourcing area when full traceability isn’t yet available or isn’t appropriate 
  • accounting for material in supply chains when origins are unknown  
  • accounting for deforestation- and conversion-free commodity volumes produced or sourced by the company  

Disclosure 

How can companies use this guidance to understand expectations for disclosure related to land use change in their operations and supply chains? 

This guidance explains how information on deforestation and conversion, land sector emissions, and DCF volumes should be publicly reported and disclosed. This guidance follows reporting recommendations on deforestation and conversion from the Accountability Framework and on GHG emissions from the draft GHG Protocol Land Sector and Removals Guidance.  

The document:  

  • describes good practice for reporting on deforestation, conversion, and LUC emissions 
  • explains how key reporting platforms and standards may be used to guide disclosure in accordance with these recommendations  
  • provides a set of recommended indicators across all topics included in this document  
  • provides sample reporting tables to communicate information on deforestation, conversion and LUC emissions by commodity  

Company input

How can companies and others provide feedback on this guidance? 

Feedback may be provided directly to the AFi using the contact page or by emailing Leah Samberg at lsamberg@ra.org

Additionally, as the guidance is intended to be used in tandem with the Greenhouse Gas Protocol Land Sector and Removals Guidance, companies that are piloting this draft GHG Protocol guidance may provide feedback via that process. Companies not currently involved in pilot testing may sign up to review the GHG Protocol guidance and provide feedback by November 2022.