Our Story

Coming together

Back in 2015, the mood was one of heady excitement, as hundreds of companies issued new pledges to eliminate deforestation and human exploitation from commodity supply chains. Yet, to some NGOs 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 crystallized into an urgent need: if we want to change business as usual to protect forests and people, we need clear rules of the game. If we want 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 individual producers and supply chains all the way up to large 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 plan how 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, the AFi’s work focused on developing a comprehensive and consensus-based framework to guide effective goal-setting, implementation, and monitoring for ethical supply chains. The Accountability Framework was developed through a consultative process led by the AFi Steering Group with participation and input of a broad range of stakeholders including civil society, companies, government representatives, and subject matter experts. Technical content was developed by working groups whose members brought perspectives from global and national NGOs, service providers, research institutions, and implementation partners involved in supporting ethical supply chains.

Draft Framework materials were presented for multiple rounds of open public consultation, dialogue, and stakeholder engagement, both globally and in tropical regions (in Latin America, West and Central Africa, and Southeast Asia). Input from private companies was gathered through workshops, webinars, and individual consultations. Our Public Consultation Report provides more detail on the consultation process, summarizes the inputs provided through this process, and explains how this feedback was incorporated or addressed.

The full Accountability Framework – representing the consensus of all Steering Group members that participated in its development – was launched in June 2019.

Scaling-up progress

Following the release of the Framework in June 2019, the initiative moved into its second phase. Our current focus is on promoting and supporting the Framework’s widespread application to help mainstream ethical production and trade through the policies, practices, and initiatives of companies, investors, civil society, and government.

To pursue this ambitious goal, in 2020 the AFi expanded its partnership model to welcome a new set of supporting partners into its coalition. As a result of the 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 ethical supply chains into the future

As companies and the global community continue to develop new solutions and respond to evolving sustainability challenges, the AFi also evolves to continue to serve its role in providing consensus-based guidance and practical resources to set goals, take action, and demonstrate progress. The AFi collects feedback from companies and Framework users on an ongoing basis to identify needs and opportunities to support ethical supply chains. In response to recent input, the AFi is currently developing additional user resources, standardized metrics on supply chain deforestation impacts, and guidance on using the Framework to support reporting on corporate greenhouse gas reduction targets. These new resources remain grounded in the Accountability Framework’s Core Principles and in global consensus.

Learn more about the initiative

Who's involved

The AFi is advanced through the work of a diverse coalition of organizations that are dedicated to protecting forests, natural ecosystems, and human rights by making ethical production and trade the new normal.


Answers to your questions about the AFi and the Accountability Framework.