Supporting governments in helping to eliminate deforestation from international commodity trade

In the context of the 2014 New York Declaration on Forests, and the 2015 Amsterdam Declaration and Paris Agreement, governments in producer and consumer countries have both committed to work together — along with private sector and civil society organizations — to eliminate deforestation from agricultural commodity supply chains.

Helping to start a revolution in supply chain transparency, Trase has the potential to accelerate the development and implementation of more sustainable polices. Greater transparency in how commodity production landscapes are connected to traders and consumer markets worldwide can play a critical role in catalysing improvements in production practices, procurement and investment policies, monitoring and development planning.

Exports of soy from Brazil to consumer countries worldwide in 2015, demonstrating strong connections between individual municipalities of production in different regions and biomes of Brazil — each associated with different environmental and social impacts — and countries importing the soy produced in those municipalities

Trase can help governments at both ends of commodity supply chains to turn policy aspirations into the concrete measures necessary to decouple deforestation and trade in major agricultural commodities. The range of public policy measures that could be deployed to tackling deforestation in commodity trade is huge, including deforestation-free public procurement policies, preferential market access for legal and sustainable products, and efforts to realign aid and investment policies to sectors and regions that encourage the supply of deforestation-free commodities.

From a demand-side policy perspective, governments that want to understand and manage their countries´ environmental and social impacts abroad depend critically on supply-chain intelligence to make the sustainable procurement and investment decisions necessary to meet their commitments. Covering the entire trade flows of major agricultural commodities, Trase represents a step-change in the ability of consumer countries to identify the specific regions of the world that are providing the bulk of their imports. This information is vital for designing sustainable sourcing strategies and identifying the key governmental and private-sector partners along the supply chains to deliver those strategies. It can also help to monitor and assess the effectiveness of targeted policy interventions, as well as overall policy coherence.

For supply-side policy, supply chain transparency is an essential ingredient in efforts to establish and deliver the territorial performance standards necessary to curb illegal practices, deliver on commitments and attract sustainable investment. Trase can help identify and build partnerships with key downstream actors who have a shared stake in the fate of specific production regions, raising awareness of common challenges, facilitating knowledge exchange, lowering costs and ultimately helping to engender a race to the top among both local authorities and companies. In providing an unprecedented birds-eye view of the shifting relationships between downstream actors and different jurisdictions of production for the entire trade in a given commodity, Trase helps fill a critical cap in monitoring compliance with government regulations and voluntary commitments — helping to expose free-riders, assess the risk of unintended leakage effects and monitor overall progress towards national zero deforestation or zero illegal deforestation goals.

Trase’s radical transparency offers a powerful and much-needed starting point for producer and consumer countries to initiate constructive dialogues on how they can support each other in progressing towards a deforestation-free economy. Trase represents a major step forwards in this process and we are excited to be supporting the work led by the Stockholm Environment Institute and Global Canopy Programme.

This article was contributed by the European Forests Institute, a lead collaborator on the use of Trase by governments in producer and consumer countries.

Trase (Transparency for Sustainable Economies) is a powerful new sustainability platform that enables governments, companies, investors and others to better understand and address the environmental and social impacts linked to their supply chains. Its pioneering approach draws on vast sets of production, trade and customs data, for the first time laying bare the flows of globally traded commodities — such as palm oil, soya, beef and timber.

Trase is implemented through a partnership between the Stockholm Environment Institute and the Global Canopy Programme. We work closely with Vizzuality, the European Forest Institute and many others. Trase was made possible through the generous support of the European Union, the Nature Conservancy, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the Swedish Research Council FORMAS and the UK Department for International Development.