Effectiveness-equity tensions in efforts to achieve zero-deforestation in the tropics through corporate supply chain policies

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OCTF online seminar (via Zoom) followed by Q&A – all welcome

Despite a growth in global conservation and restoration commitments, tropical forests are disappearing faster than ever. The goal of this research is to advance our understanding of the conditions under which forest-focused supply chain policies (FSPs), a form of voluntary environmental governance, can lead to improved conservation and livelihoods in the tropics. Dr Garrett will present work examining how differences in supply chain structure and public governance context influence the effectiveness and equity of supply chain policies focused on the 4 major forest-risk commodities: beef cattle, oil palm, soybeans, and cocoa. The research draws on replicated methods across Brazil, Indonesia, and West Africa to lend new insights into the contextual reasons why supply chain standards succeed or fail in their conservation goals. It finds that company-led supply chain policies face numerous implementation paradoxes (i.e. persistent contradictions between interdependent goals). Environmental effectiveness is often prioritized, but the exclusion of vulnerable actors is a common outcome. This tension can result in political backlash and support subversive narratives and behaviors by companies that source deforestation-risk products. There are no clear solutions to these problems from an individual supply chain stand point. However, pre-competitive collaboration across companies and local governments through jurisdictional approaches to zero-deforestation and sustainable development policy could help address many of the challenges uncovered by the research.

Rachael Garrett is an Assistant Professor of Environmental Policy at ETH Zürich (Switzerland). Dr. Garrett’s research examines interactions between land use, ecosystem services, and economic development at multiple spatial and temporal scales to better understand the drivers and impacts of land change and the effectiveness of existing conservation policies and practices. She is particularly interested in how commodity supply chains interact with environmental institutions to shape land use processes, resource distribution, and trade. Her research has largely focused on land change processes in agriculture-forest frontiers and sustainable intensification of pastures in the tropics. More recently she is leading a pan-tropical analysis of the effectiveness and equity of forest-focused supply chain policies with funding from the Swiss National Science Foundation and an ERC Starting Grant (zerodeforestationimpacts.com). This work involves coordinated research in Brazil, Ghana, Indonesia, and Ivory Coast on beef cattle, cocoa, oil palm, and soybean supply chains. Dr. Garrett received her doctorate at Stanford University and did her post-doctoral fellowship at Harvard University. Prior to working at ETH Zürich she was an Assistant Professor at Boston University.