AFi updates its Operational Guidance on Cutoff Dates
28 September 2023
This Accountability Framework document clarifies and expands guidance for companies on selecting cutoff dates for deforestation and conversion.
The AFi Coalition is pleased to release an updated version of the Accountability Framework’s Operational Guidance on Cutoff Dates. As before, the guidance explains how companies can select appropriate cutoff dates for deforestation and conversion of other natural ecosystems when setting commitments for their agricultural and forestry supply chains.
The guidance underscores that cutoff dates are an essential component of precise and actionable no-deforestation and no-conversion goals. Cutoff dates serve this function in multiple ways. For example, they provide a basis for assessing the compliance of product volumes with no-deforestation and no-conversion policies. Cutoff dates also facilitate consistent monitoring and verification of supply chains. Further, they communicate expectations to suppliers and support the establishment of sector-wide norms. This sends market signals that can shift patterns of commodity production to better protect natural ecosystems.
The updated guidance emphasises that cutoff dates are needed to address land clearance in all ecosystems, including both forests and non-forest ecosystems. It also clarifies that cutoff dates for deforestation should be no later than 2020, and notes that this date aligns with global goals to halt deforestation as well as with dates used in regulatory and voluntary mechanisms. Further, the document describes how to select cutoff dates across multiple commodities or regions.
The guidance provides expanded information for companies on selecting and using common cutoff dates as part of their no-deforestation and no-conversion approaches. Common cutoff dates are those that are used by many or all companies operating in similar contexts. Common cutoff dates include those that are found within:
- sector agreements
- laws and regulations
- collective targets
- certification programmes
- collaborative initiatives
While cutoff dates are a core element of robust company policies, in cases when companies have not yet set policies with cutoff dates, reference dates can enable clear and aligned monitoring of deforestation and conversion. The updated guidance explains how to select reference dates, following the same considerations for selecting cutoff dates.
“It is evident that deforestation- and conversion-free (DCF) commitments with defined and unchanging cutoff dates are key to delivering positive impacts on nature,” said Marina Guyot, Program Coordinator at AFi Coalition member organisation Imaflora. “One challenge is ensuring that cutoff dates do not infringe upon legal frameworks. The Accountability Framework´s clear guidance on the use of common cutoff dates, including those established in legal frameworks, helps us to address situations where company DCF cutoff dates are more recent, and therefore situations where remedy may be required."
The AFi first released the Accountability Framework in 2019. Since that time, the Framework has guided effective private sector action on commodity-linked deforestation and conversion. It has also strengthened alignment and coordination across numerous initiatives to advance responsible supply chains. In 2023, the AFi began updating Framework components to provide additional guidance and value to users. Earlier this year, the AFi published updated Core Principles and Operational Guidance on Applying the Definitions Related to Deforestation and Conversion.
The updated Operational Guidance on Cutoff Dates is available for download here. All updates to the Framework reflect the consensus of the AFi Coalition, which comprises 25+ environment and human rights organisations from around the world.