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Seven steps to achieving responsible supply chains

Sponsored: The Accountability Framework offers companies a practical approach to managing nature, climate, and human rights risks.

Companies that produce or source agricultural or forestry commodities can use the Accountability Framework to achieve supply chains that are protective of forests, other natural ecosystems, and human rights.

Companies that produce or source agricultural or forestry commodities can use the Accountability Framework to achieve supply chains that are protective of forests, other natural ecosystems, and human rights. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

This article is sponsored by Accountability Framework initiative.

With the twin threats of climate change and ecological collapse looming, companies are under increasing pressure to address the impacts of their supply chains on people and the planet. More than ever, today’s consumers, downstream customers, employees, government regulators, investors and other stakeholders expect supply chains to be sustainable. 

The urgency is particularly acute for companies in the food and consumer goods industries. That’s because the agricultural and forestry commodities they use in their products and packaging can have outsized impacts on nature, climate and human rights. 

Chocolate companies, for example, are facing a barrage of lawsuits and consumer campaigns over allegations of human rights abuses in cocoa supply chains. And in less than a year’s time, companies putting products on the EU market will have to prove that commodity production was legal and not associated with deforestation or forest degradation.  

Yet while thousands of companies have pledged to transform their commodity supply chains, implementation continues to fall short.

A roadmap for responsible supply chains 

To help companies transition their businesses and transform how agricultural and forestry commodities are produced and traded, a group of leading NGOs created the Accountability Framework. It offers companies a holistic and integrated approach to managing deforestation and human rights risks across their operations and supply bases.

The Accountability Framework is applicable worldwide for all agricultural and forestry commodities, and for companies at any position in the supply chain. As it is based on international norms, good practices and broad consensus, following the Framework gives companies confidence that their actions will fulfil stakeholder expectations and drive meaningful progress.

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The pathway to responsible supply chains can be distilled into seven key action areas. These are organized around the 12 Core Principles of the Accountability Framework. Image courtesy of Accountability Framework initative.

The Accountability Framework guides companies through seven action areas to improve their sustainability policies and practices. Wherever companies are on their responsible supply chain journeys, they will find detailed guidance to help them identify practical steps for improvement. 

For instance, the framework and its supporting tools assist companies in benchmarking their existing policies and in setting or strengthening supply chain goals to protect forests, other natural ecosystems and human rights. 

This guidance is fully aligned with key target setting frameworks and regulations on climate, nature and human rights. For instance, SBTi’s Forest, Land and Agriculture Guidance requires companies to set a no-deforestation target that aligns with the framework. Due to this alignment, following the framework can help ensure that a company’s approach to addressing deforestation also helps fulfils other goals and requirements.  

To translate supply chain goals into sustainability outcomes, companies should establish management systems to drive effective implementation of commitments. This requires embedding goals into all production, procurement, and other business decisions, as well as establishing internal processes, capacity, and oversight. 

The framework provides differentiated guidance for commodity producers and buyers. For downstream companies, it details the practices and systems needed to effectively manage their supply chains. These include conducting traceability, supplier engagement and management of non-compliance. For upstream producers and primary processors, the framework details expectations and good practices for land acquisition and site establishment, site management, long-term protection and remediation of social and environmental harms when needed. 

As a final action area to implement sustainability goals, the framework outlines key ways for companies to collaborate with others at the landscape and sectoral levels to address impacts and risks that extend beyond their own operations, supply bases and direct control. 

The framework also supports consistent and credible methods to measure and demonstrate progress towards achieving goals. This includes guidance on monitoring and verification approaches as well as reporting, disclosure and claims. The framework is highly aligned with leading reporting and disclosure systems, such as CDP and GRI. 

In sum, the Framework provides a holistic and aligned approach that links goal setting, implementation, performance metrics and disclosure. 

Towards new normal 

Since its release in 2019, the Accountability Framework has contributed to scaling-up ambition, action and progress towards making responsible supply chains the new normal. Hundreds of companies have directly applied the Accountability Framework to establish and advance towards their supply chain goals. Thousands more use industry guidelines, tools and standards that have aligned with the framework. 

The Accountability Framework is a free public resource. Our coalition of environmental and human rights NGOs invites companies to use it to help set and achieve goals that enable them to furnish the products the world needs without putting people or nature at risk. Companies can learn more about how to use the Accountability Framework on our website and are welcome to get in touch with us for individualized support.

[Learn how companies are implementing climate transition action plans at GreenFin 24 (June 17-19, NYC), the premier event for sustainable finance professionals.]

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