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What is the Accountability Framework initiative?

The Accountability Framework initiative (AFi) is a collaborative effort to help companies establish and implement effective commitments on deforestation, land conversion, and human rights in responsible supply chains. The initiative is doing this by developing and promoting an Accountability Framework that brings greater clarity, consistency, and effectiveness to the implementation of responsible supply chain commitments.

What is in the Accountability Framework?

The centerpiece of the Framework is a core document that defines good practices related to the establishment and implementation of commitments, addressing aspects such as supply chain management, monitoring, verification, reporting, and claims. To support its practical application by companies and others, the core document will be elaborated in greater detail in an Operational Manual that includes common definitions as well as guidance on ambiguous scenarios and topics where norms are currently lacking. The Framework will reference and incorporate existing standards and implementation norms to create a common global reference that enables high-level policy commitments to be credibly implemented in different contexts.

How is the Framework being developed?

The Framework is being developed through a participatory process including multiple rounds of open public consultation, dialogue, and stakeholder engagement both in tropical producing regions (Latin America, Africa, and Southeast Asia) and at a global level. Input from private companies is being actively sought to ensure that the Framework is practical and action-oriented. Closely linked to this participatory process, working groups consisting of diverse stakeholders are being convened to help to develop Framework elements on land (including forests, other ecosystems, and land rights), verification, and reporting and disclosure.

Who is leading the Accountability Framework initiative?

The AFi aims to build a broad coalition in support of the Framework’s common implementation approaches. Toward this end, the initiative is led by a civil society coalition representing social and environmental issues from both global and producing-country perspectives. The initiative’s Steering Group, which is responsible for strategic decisions about the initiative—including the content of the Accountability Framework—currently includes representatives of the ten NGOs, namely Forest Peoples Programme, Greenpeace, Imaflora, National Wildlife Federation, Proforest, Rainforest Alliance, Rights and Resources Initiative, The Nature Conservancy, World Resources Institute, and the World Wildlife Fund.

Is the Accountability Framework a new certification program?

No. The AFi is being designed as a certification program and does not intend to develop an assurance mechanism to audit organizations’ compliance with the Framework. Rather, the Framework will provide a set of norms and guidelines that can be applied through a range of existing and emerging implementation tools, systems, and service providers. This will foster the innovation needed to quickly scale up progress while ensuring that all implementation efforts adhere to common good practices and tenets of credibility. It will also allow implementation that is carried out in different contexts or with different tools or partners to be assessed and reported in common terms. This will help maximize the contribution of responsible supply chains initiatives toward supporting broader conservation and social justice goals. Please click here for more information for companies interested in making statements or claims related to their application of the Accountability Framework.

How is the private sector performing on its commitments to deforestation-free and responsible sourcing?

Recent reports by Climate Focus and Supply Change reveal overall limited progress toward the fulfillment of corporate responsible supply chain commitments. Because of the lack of common definitions, monitoring tools, and outcome reporting metrics, it is difficult to know the true extent of progress.

Will this initiative compete with existing implementation norms, tools, initiatives, or platforms?

Not at all. It will foster consistency and alignment among different tools based on an overarching set of common norms. This consistency will facilitate implementation, monitoring, and reporting of progress across commodities and regions. To ensure complementarity and compatibility with existing initiatives, the development of the Accountability Framework is being coordinated closely with:

What is the ultimate aim of the initiative?

The Accountability Framework initiative aims to protect natural ecosystems and enhance the well-being of people and communities in landscapes where agriculture and forest commodities are produced, or might be produced in the future. The initiative promotes this aim by working to ensure that supply chain commitments are fulfilled in an effective and timely manner that results in lasting change on the ground.

How can companies benefit from the Accountability Framework?

The Framework will simplify and facilitate the implementation of supply chain commitments by:

  1. Creating a single normative framework that companies can reference, thereby reducing the need to participate in a multitude of tools and processes related to different commodities, biomes, or topic areas
  2. Improving the credibility and integrity of implementation and monitoring efforts, thereby helping companies achieve and confidently report on true progress
  3. Harmonizing norms and tools specific to various commodities, regions, and biomes so that companies can coherently manage and fulfill their global mandates across differing contexts
  4. Establishing commonality or inter-operability of definitions, monitoring tools, and disclosure guidelines, thus reducing the reporting burden
  5. Providing a clear signal from civil society regarding expectations for implementation, thereby reducing conflicting messages and mandates.

How does AFi plan to involve governments and policymakers?

The Accountability Framework can help inform the work of governments and policymakers to develop or improve policies, incentives, and monitoring frameworks in support of rural land use and commodity production that is responsible and respectful of land rights, human rights, labor rights and environmental regulations. For instance, global definitions and norms in the Framework can be adapted to create locally appropriate systems for implementing and monitoring deforestation-free commodity production. The Framework also specifies good practices for company engagement in government-led and multi-stakeholder processes of land-use planning, land management, and performance monitoring. Government officials are being consulted during the development of the Accountability Framework to invite input and to clarify how the Framework can best support the complementarity of public- and private-sector initiatives to establish sustainable landscapes and supply chains.

Who will make decisions about the content of the Accountability Framework?

The decision-making body for the Accountability Framework initiative is a Steering Group consisting of representatives of the ten international and regional civil society organizations, as described above. The Framework development process is also being informed by a broad stakeholder engagement process that involves additional civil society representatives, companies, government representatives, and subject matter experts.

Who will own the Accountability Framework?

The Accountability Framework will be a public good that can be freely adopted and adapted by all users.

Who is serving as the secretariat for the Accountability Framework initiative?

The Rainforest Alliance and the Meridian Institute are co-hosting the AFi secretariat. Many of the Steering Group members are providing additional support related to Framework development, stakeholder engagement, and other functions. The Rainforest Alliance is supporting this initiative to advance its mission to conserve biodiversity and ensure sustainable livelihoods. This work is separate from, and is not intended to promote or preference, the certification programs that Rainforest Alliance operates or supports.

Who is providing financial support for the Accountability Framework initiative?

Funding has been generously provided by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and the SEM Charitable Trust. This work is part of a collaboration among the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and other partners designed to eliminate the loss and degradation of tropical and sub-tropical forest ecosystems that results from the production of globally traded agricultural commodities by ensuring that key commodities are sourced only from deforestation-free areas.

The AFi is not funded by, nor does it seek funding from, private companies engaged in the supply chains it seeks to address (i.e., agriculture and forestry).

Accountability Framework Flyer

Delivering on Ethical Supply Chain Commitments

A coalition of established NGOs and other stakeholders is developing a common approach for the implementation, assessment, and reporting of ethical supply chain commitments. This will provide greater clarity for companies and help accelerate progress on the ground.