“If you want to go far, go together.” When it comes to addressing deforestation and human rights across global supply chains, this proverb is as true as ever. That’s why industry groups and roundtables have come to play a key role in defining common standards and systems for responsible commodities.
Yet, building consensus at the sector level is not exactly simple. To support this process, many industry platforms have turned to the Accountability Framework as a starting point to develop common sustainability approaches that are grounded in the Framework’s consensus-based definitions and guidelines.
Doing so is proving to have several advantages. First, as a common reference for responsible supply chains, the Framework incorporates key international norms and reflects the consensus of diverse environmental and social NGOs. This allows industry groups and participating companies to proceed with greater confidence that their plans or guidelines will be recognized as following accepted good practices.
Second, the Framework enables groups to build on prior points of consensus – such as on definitions – so that they can move more quickly from policy development to implementation. Third, by integrating pre-existing sustainability tools and systems (e.g., certification programs and reporting systems) under a common umbrella, the Framework can help industry groups develop guidelines and plans that are likewise aligned with and complement existing tools that their members use.
These learnings are based on use of the Framework by industry groups across several different forest-risk commodity sectors. Let’s look at a few examples.
With a membership that includes leading manufacturers and retailers, the Consumer Goods Forum’s Forest Positive Coalition of Action is developing a collective approach to halt commodity-driven deforestation in its members’ supply chains and sourcing areas. The coalition has used the Framework to support the development of commodity roadmaps for soy, palm oil, and pulp, paper, and packaging. These roadmaps provide definitions, individual and collective commitments and actions, and KPIs aimed at accelerating implementation and collective action to achieve the coalition’s goals.
In the rubber sector, the Global Platform for Sustainable Natural Rubber (GPSNR) is filling a key gap by developing a common sector-wide sustainability approach. To support this effort, GPSNR adopted the Accountability Framework as a primary reference for developing its policies and guidelines. To date, this has resulted in the approval in September 2020 of the GPSNR Policy Framework, which is well-aligned with the Accountability Framework. As GPSNR’s work moves forward, the Accountability Framework initiative (AFi) Backbone Team and coalition members continue to support GPSNR in developing implementation guidance and reporting requirements that are aligned with the Accountability Framework.
Given the many sector-level initiatives and industry groups focused on the soy sector, alignment around definitions, expectations, and performance criteria is a critical need. One early user of the Framework in this sector was the UK Roundtable on Responsible Soya, profiled in this case study. Another recent example is the European Feed Manufacturers’ Federation (FEFAC), which adopted AFi definitions and used the Framework to help define new criteria and transparency requirements for conversion-free soy in its 2021 Soy Sourcing Guidelines. These guidelines provide a benchmark and recommendations for companies working to meet responsible soy sourcing requirements. Key changes in these guidelines from the prior version include the incorporation of criteria on natural ecosystem conversion and on ensuring free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) of indigenous peoples and local communities – both of which are in line with the Framework’s elements on this topic.
We at the AFi are heartened by these efforts of industry sustainability initiatives to align around the good practices in the Accountability Framework. Together with action by individual companies, NGOs, and government, these sector initiatives can indeed help us to go far.
For more information on the Framework and how it can support sector-level action on responsible supply chains, please visit our Get Started page.