Monitoring and reporting tools

The Accountability Framework provides guidance for monitoring and reporting on commodity supply chains in a clear and consistent way. Many widely-used monitoring and reporting tools are well-aligned with the Framework.

A range of monitoring tools are available to help companies to collect data and assess indicators related to their supply chain goals. Many of these tools align with the Accountability Framework’s guidelines for assessing risk, progress, and outcomes related to deforestation, conversion, and human rights.

The Framework also provides a structured approach for credible reporting in line with the expectations of buyers, investors, civil society, and other stakeholders. To help reduce company reporting burdens, the Accountability Framework initiative (AFi) does not provide its own separate reporting platform. Rather, the Framework guides companies in designing their public sustainability reporting and business-to-business reporting, including through the use of existing reporting standards and platforms.

Please read below to learn more about how various monitoring and reporting tools relate to the Accountability Framework. If you would like to see any additional tools included here, please contact us with your suggestions.

Common questions about the Framework and monitoring tools

Expand the items to the right to learn more:

Does AFi prescribe specific monitoring tools?

No. The most suitable monitoring tools for any given company or supply chain will depend on factors such as the commodity, sourcing origins, position in the supply chain, and the company’s capacity. Monitoring tools are also evolving rapidly, supported by technological advancements. For these reasons, the AFi does not prescribe specific tools that must be used.

Instead, the Framework helps companies select appropriate tools by defining expectations for supply chain monitoring and verification as well as characteristics of robust monitoring systems. Read below for further information on selecting monitoring tools. For the Framework’s full guidance on monitoring, see Core Principle 11 and the Operational Guidance on Monitoring and Verification.

How should monitoring tools for deforestation and conversion be selected?

A range of tools and platforms are available to monitor deforestation, ecosystem conversion, and other land use changes. These tools offer different capabilities and scopes. To monitor deforestation or conversion in alignment with the Accountability Framework, companies should use the best available tools given the commodities and geographic origins in their supply chains. To identify the most appropriate tools for their specific contexts, companies should consider the following:

  • Resolution: Some tools provide data at 10- or 30-meter resolutions, while others are coarser. Companies should select tools that provide a level of resolution suited to the size of production units and the level of traceability in their supply chain. For instance, higher resolution is generally needed to monitor smallholder agriculture than to monitor land use change associated with large-scale plantation development.
  • Geographic location: Some tools provide global coverage while others are limited to particular regions but may be more accurate for these contexts. Companies should consider applying context-specific tools where they are available.
  • Ecosystem type: Some tools are designed to assess only forest loss while others include data on non-forest ecosystems. Companies should select tools appropriate for the ecosystems being monitored.
  • Type of land cover change: Monitoring large-scale clearance of forest for row crops is relatively straightforward, and many effective tools are available. More specialized tools are often needed to monitor conversion of non-forest ecosystems, forest or ecosystem degradation, conversion of small or disconnected areas, or conversion to tree crops, tree plantations, or agroforestry systems. Under these scenarios, existing remote sensing tools are not always fully adequate and may need to be supplemented with bespoke technology or ground-based monitoring.
  • Frequency: Some tools provide near real-time data on forest loss while others provide annual data or less frequent updates. For determining compliance of specific production units with no-deforestation or no-conversion commitments (e.g., whether a given production unit was subject to post cutoff date conversion), annual frequency is usually sufficient. To monitor and manage active deforestation and conversion risk in sourcing origins, near real-time monitoring tools and automated deforestation or conversion alert systems are recommended.
  • Recognition: Some tools are produced by and/or recognized by governments or other key actors. Where available, use of these tools is recommended (and in some cases may be compulsory) to help ensure that monitoring of no-deforestation and no-conversion commitments is aligned with other compliance monitoring processes.

What are some tools that can be used to monitor deforestation and conversion in alignment with the Framework?

Expand to see examples of publicly available tools that may be used to monitor deforestation or conversion at the level of the production unit or sourcing area.

For additional suggestions, see AFi’s list of commonly used monitoring and risk assessment tools used by companies to help fulfill expectations for credible monitoring of production units, sourcing areas, and supply chains.

Global Forest Watch

Global Forest Watch, hosted by the World Resources Institute (WRI), provides global tree cover and forest change data at a 30 meter resolution, in combination with data on protected areas, peatlands, and other key landscape features.

Global Forest Watch (GFW) Pro is an online platform that enables companies to measure and manage deforestation risk in commodity supply chains. Drawing upon the GFW data infrastructure, GFW Pro allows companies to securely upload the location of farms, processing facilities, or jurisdictions in their supply chains or investment portfolios and analyse these locations in relation to forest change and land use data. Through GFW Pro, companies can assess deforestation risk, monitor historic and ongoing trends in deforestation, and access deforestation and fire alerts. GFW Pro allows users to carry out regionally specific analyses using a variety of indicators, along with forest change data, contextual layers, and satellite imagery.

GFW is a leading tool for assessing deforestation risk and impact across supply chains and investment portfolios worldwide. In many contexts around the world, GFW Pro can be used to effectively monitor deforestation at the production level in alignment with the Framework’s definitions and guidance.

However, in some contexts, companies may require supplemental tools where monitoring needs exceed the current technical capabilities of GFW. These may include:

  • Monitoring conversion or conversion risk of non-forested natural ecosystems:
  • Monitoring conversion or conversion risk due to small-scale conversion, such as in smallholder landscapes
  • Monitoring conversion or the risk of conversion associated with production systems that integrate production with tree cover, including agroforestry systems such as shade-grown coffee or cocoa or some forms of plantation agriculture.

GFW Pro continuously updates its platform as new data and improved analysis capabilities become available in order to better support deforestation and conversion monitoring in the above scenarios.

PRODES

PRODES is a satellite monitoring program run by the Brazilian government, initially designed to monitor deforestation in the Legal Amazon. PRODES uses LANDSAT imagery, which has a 30 meter resolution, though publicly available data has a minimum size polygon of 6.25 ha. The Brazilian government uses these data as the basis for official deforestation statistics and enforcement of forest regulations and policies.

PRODES has a number of features that make it fit-for purpose in Brazil. Data sets are created using a combination of computer and human analysis that provides more accurate identification of true deforestation. Like many other tools, PRODES data is updated annually, but the annual monitoring cycle (August 1- July 31) allows for better cloud-free image collection in the region and is more aligned with typical agricultural clearing cycles. Finally, because PRODES is a national data set, findings are likely to be more readily accepted in policy or legality discussions.

However, the coarse resolution of 6.25 hectares, while resulting in less error in identifying deforestation, limits the detection of smaller patches of deforestation, and decreases PRODES’s alignment with AFi guidance. Companies may use PRODES for coarse- or medium- resolution monitoring of sourcing areas and production sites in alignment with the Framework, In cases where forest loss is suspected, additional higher-resolution tools should be used in addition to PRODES to assess deforestation risk or to quantify actual forest loss.

More recently, the PRODES Cerrado project has mapped deforestation and conversion of natural vegetation in the Cerrado with a minimum polygon size of 1 ha. The project has refined historical maps of deforestation in the Cerrado biome from 2000-2018, and has produced annual maps of natural vegetation conversion in the Cerrado from 2013-2018. In addition, the DETER Cerrado alert system has recently been released to improve the timeliness of available data and improving monitoring capabilities going forward. PRODES Cerrado may be used for coarse- or medium-resolution monitoring of sourcing areas and production sites in the Cerrado region, and to provide a baseline of natural ecosystem cover before a cutoff date. In cases where ecosystem conversion is suspected, PRODES Cerrado should be supplemented with higher-resolution and near real-time data tools (such as Mapbiomas, see below).

Mapbiomas

The Brazilian Annual Land Use and Land Cover Mapping Project (MapBiomas) uses the Google Earth Engine to produce annual maps and calculations of land use change across all of Brazil using satellite data with a 30 meter resolution. In 2017, the project expanded to cover all parts of the Amazon (the Mapbiomas Amazonia project) and Chaco (Mapbiomas Chaco project) biomes in surrounding countries.

The maps display land cover and land use change data, including both forest and non-forest ecosystems, as well as indigenous territories and conservation units. Summary statistics are provided at the country, state and municipality levels. MapBiomas also generates a transition matrix, which details the different land use change activities identified on the maps and allows for a more nuanced analysis of changes between primary and secondary forest and other land cover types.

Companies can use Mapbiomas for production unit or area-level monitoring of deforestation and ecosystem conversion at a 30m resolution. To use Mapbiomas data in alignment with the Accountability Framework, both primary and secondary forest and native vegetation should be considered as natural ecosystems, as per the Framework’s definitions.

Trase

Launched in 2016, Trase is a product of Global Canopy and the Stockholm Environment Institute. Trase combines trade data with land-use change data, including data from GFW, PRODES, and other sources, to assess the deforestation and conversion footprint or risk of commodity traders and financial institutions. The approach provides information on the exposure of commodity traders to deforestation and conversion activity at the sub-national scale, down to individual districts and municipalities, and connects specific production regions to global markets and trading companies. Trase currently focuses on South American beef and soy and Indonesian palm oil, but plans to expand its commodity and geographic coverage.

For companies that are unable to trace or control their entire supply chain (either through direct traceability to origin or through other control systems such as certification), tools such as Trase can provide valuable data on deforestation or conversion exposure. Thus, companies can use Trase to monitor and report on deforestation risk at an area level, in alignment with the Accountability Framework’s Operational Guidance on Monitoring and Verification (section 2.2.1).

Human Rights Monitoring Tools

Unlike deforestation and conversion, human rights impacts and risks cannot be monitored through the use of remote sensing. However, the risk of human rights violations is strongly linked to key contextual factors, many of which can be monitored at a national or subnational level, and in some cases disaggregated by commodity sector. Several tools are available for monitoring the factors that are often associated with human rights violations; see the AFi’s list of monitoring and risk-assessment tools. The human rights-focused tools in this list are generally more suitable for risk assessment than for monitoring human rights at the production unit level. The latter typically requires a combination of internal on-site monitoring, external verification, and appropriate methods for engaging rights-holders in the monitoring process, including but not limited to effective grievance mechanisms. See Section 2.1.2 of the Operational Guidance on Monitoring and Verification for further information.

What systems can companies use to report on sustainability of commodity supply chains?

Most of the widely-used reporting standards and platforms that address environmental and human rights issues linked to soft commodities are well-aligned with the Accountability Framework and can be used to report in accordance with its guidance. Aligned tools address the four key elements of reporting addressed in the Framework: 1) exposure to environmental and social risk; 2) management systems and activities to address this risk; 3) levels of traceability and control of materials in the supply chain; and 4) progress and outcomes related to responsible supply chains.

The Global Reporting Initiative

The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) provides the world’s most widely used standards for sustainability reporting. The GRI standards cover a wide range of sustainability topics, are developed through a multi-stakeholder process with extensive consultation, and are freely available.

Currently, companies can use relevant GRI standards to report on most aspects of implementation and outcomes within the scope of the Accountability Framework. More detail on relevant topic standards can be found in our guidance on using existing reporting systems. The forthcoming GRI Agriculture, Aquaculture, and Fishing Sector Standard will provide clear guidance on the topics relevant to companies that produce and source agricultural and forest commodities, including new indicators on ecosystem conversion, aligned with the Framework. Once this standard is released, it will provide comprehensive coverage of all elements of the Framework.

CDP Forests

CDP operates a global environmental disclosure system that supports companies in making their environmental risk and impact transparent to stakeholders. In the context of soft commodity sectors, investors and commodity buyers use CDP to request sustainability data on their business partners, make informed decisions, and incentivize high-performance or improvement.

Using CDP’s forests questionnaire, companies can report on seven forest-risk commodities: palm oil, timber products, cattle products, soy, rubber, cocoa, and coffee. As of 2020, the forests questionnaire has been revised to align with the Accountability Framework and can be used to report effectively on all Framework elements related to deforestation and conversion, as well as many of the elements related to land rights. More detail on alignment with the Framework can be found in our guidance on using existing reporting systems.

UNGP Reporting Framework

The UNGP Reporting Framework (UNGP RF) guides comprehensive company reporting against the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. It was developed through a consultative process involving representatives from over 200 companies, investor groups, civil society organizations, governments, assurance providers, lawyers, and other expert organizations. Companies can use the UNGP RF to structure reporting on policies, implementation, and outcomes related to the Accountability Framework related to workers’ rights and rights of indigenous peoples and local communities. More detail on alignment with the Framework can be found in our guidance on using existing reporting systems.

Implementation Reporting Framework (IRF)

The Implementation Reporting Framework (IRF) is a volume-based reporting tool developed through a collaborative process led by Proforest and operationalised in the palm oil sector through the Palm Oil Collaboration Group convened by PepsiCo and Cargill. Currently, the IRF facilitates volume-based reporting on compliance of palm oil volumes with commitments to no deforestation, no peatland conversion, and no exploitation (NDPE), allowing companies to develop aggregate measures of progress even when buying commodity volumes from intermediaries without full traceability back to the producer. Further guidance on how the IRF can be used in alignment with the Accountability Framework can be found here.

Still have questions?

If you have specific questions about how the Framework can be applied in your context, or if you would like to speak to a member of the AFi team, please contact us below.

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