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The challenge of commodity-centric governance in sacrifice frontiers: Evidence from the Brazilian Cerrado’s soy sector

Published in Geoforum, 2024

Abstract: Conservation governance is increasingly globalized, particularly supply chain polices implemented by multinational corporations. However, the ways that local elite narratives and power networks influence the design and implementation of policies is poorly understood. We examine the role that local agribusiness narratives have on producers’ resistance to supply chain policies through the concept of the “sacrifice frontier”. We theorize sacrifice frontiers are regions where reinforcing perceptions that conversion of native vegetation has high economic potential and low conservation importance combine with rapid processes of wealth and power consolidation by agribusiness interests. We posit that these dimensions of a sacrifice frontier make rapid land use change and ongoing social and ecological harm especially probable as they reinforce constraints on sustainability governance. Here, we build on existing theories of environmental sacrifice through the case of the Cerrado biome, Brazil’s most active deforestation frontier. We argue that in the Cerrado, and other sacrifice frontiers like it, interventions that seek to reduce native vegetation loss cannot rely on supply-chain led policies, but instead need to foster more territorial multi-sectoral and multi-stakeholder discussions to alter the narrative of sociocultural and biodiversity sacrifice locally. We suggest this can be achieved by paying attention to local needs in a manner that is inclusive to all land users present within a targeted landscape.

Recommended citation: S.A. Levy, A.V. Nogueira Garik, R.D. Garrett (2024). "The challenge of commodity-centric governance in sacrifice frontiers: Evidence from the Brazilian Cerrado soy sector." Geoforum. 150.

A systematic comparison of deforestation drivers and policy effectiveness across the Amazon biome

Published in Environmental Research Letters, 2023

Abstract: The Amazon biome, spanning nine countries, has one of the highest rates of deforestation worldwide. This deforestation contributes to biodiversity loss, climate change, the spread of infectious diseases, and damage to rural and indigenous livelihoods. Hundreds of articles have been published on the topic of deforestation across Amazonia, yet there has been no recent synthesis of deforestation drivers and deforestation-control policy effectiveness in the region. Here we undertook the first systematic review of papers published between 2000 to 2021 that have causally linked proximate and underlying drivers and policies to deforestation outcomes in Amazonia. In the 155 articles that met our inclusion criteria, we find that causal research is concentrated in Brazil, and to a lesser degree Peru, Ecuador, and Bolivia. There has been little study of the Guianas, Venezuela or Colombia. Large- and small-scale agriculture linked to improved market access and high agricultural prices are frequently researched proximate drivers of deforestation across the heavily researched regions. In the Guianas research focuses on mining with little focus on underlying causes. Research on infrastructure expansion, mining and oil extraction and on technological, sociocultural, and institutional factors remains sparse. Many public and private policies have been found to be effective in controlling deforestation across the biome, with protected areas standing out as particularly successful in slowing deforestation, vis-à-vis supply chain approaches. Our findings indicate a greater need for research on: i) additional deforestation drivers beyond agriculture and economic factors; ii) the complex interactions between different drivers and deforestation control policies; iii) causes underlying deforestation in low or new deforestation areas; and iv) the dynamics between Amazonian subregions and countries. Better understanding of all deforestation drivers and the effectiveness of existing deforestation mitigation policies is a prerequisite for completely halting deforestation in Amazonia.

Recommended citation: A. Hänggli, S.A. Levy, D. Armenteras Pascual, B. Bovolo, J. Brandao, X. Rueda , R.D. Garrett (2023). "A systematic comparison of deforestation drivers and policy effectiveness across the Amazon biome." Environmental Research Letters.

Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon could be halved by scaling up the implementation of zero-deforestation cattle commitments

Published in Global Environmental Change, 2023

Abstract: Deforestation for agriculture is a key threat to global carbon stocks, biodiversity, and indigenous ways of life. In the absence of strong territorial governance, zero-deforestation commitments (ZDCs), corporate policies to decouple food production from deforestation, remain a central tool to combat this issue. Yet evidence on their effectiveness remains mixed and the mechanisms limiting effectiveness are poorly understood. To advance understanding of ZDCs’ potential at reducing deforestation, we developed the first spatially explicit estimates of farmers’ exposure to ZDC companies in the Brazilian Amazon cattle sector. Exposure was measured by determining the market share of ZDC firms from the first full year of ZDC adoption in 2010 until 2018. Our analysis evaluated how variation in this exposure influenced deforestation. We found the G4 Agreement, the most widespread and strongly implemented cattle ZDC, reduced cattle-driven deforestation by 7,000 ± 4,000 km2 (15 ± 8%) between 2010 and 2018. Additionally, had all firms adopted and implemented an effective ZDC, cattle-driven deforestation could have dropped by 24,000 ± 13,000 km2 (51 ± 28%). These results for the world’s principal deforestation hotspot suggests supply chain policies can substantially reduce deforestation. However, their effectiveness is contingent on widespread adoption and rigorous implementation, both of which are currently insufficient to prevent large scale deforestation. Increased adoption and implementation could be incentivized through greater pressure from the Brazilian government and import countries.

Recommended citation: S.A. Levy, F. Cammelli, J. Munger, H. K. Gibbs, R.D. Garrett (2023). "Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon could be halved by scaling up the implementation of zero-deforestation cattle commitments." Global Environmental Change. 80.

Designing effective and equitable zero-deforestation supply chain policies

Published in Global Environmental Change, 2022

Abstract: In response to the clearing of tropical forests for agricultural expansion, agri-food companies have adopted promises to eliminate deforestation from their supply chains in the form of ‘zero-deforestation commitments’ (ZDCs). While there is growing evidence about the environmental effectiveness of these commitments (i.e., whether they meet their conservation goals), there is little information on how they influence producers’ opportunity to access sustainable markets and related livelihood outcomes, or how design and implementation choices influence tradeoffs or potential synergies between effectiveness and equity in access. This paper explores these research gaps and makes three main contributions by: i) defining and justifying the importance of analyzing access equity and its relation to effectiveness when implementing forest-focused supply chain policies such as ZDCs, ii) identifying seven policy design principles that are likely to maximize synergies between effectiveness and access equity, and iii) assessing effectiveness-access equity tensions and synergies across common ZDC implementation mechanisms amongst the five largest firms in each of the leading agricultural forest-risk commodity sectors: palm oil, soybeans, beef cattle, and cocoa. To enhance forest conservation while avoiding harm to the most vulnerable farmers in the tropics, it is necessary to combine stringent rules with widespread capacity building, greater involvement of affected actors in the co-production of implementation mechanisms, and support for alternative rural development paths.

Recommended citation: Grabs, J., F. Cammelli, S.A. Levy & R. D. Garrett (2022). "Designing effective and equitable zero-deforestation supply chain policies." Global Environmental Change. 70.

Should Payments for Ecosystem Services be used to implement zero-deforestation supply chain policies? The case of soy in the Brazilian Cerrado

Published in World Development, 2022

Abstract: Over the past decade public and private actors have been developing a variety of new policy approaches for addressing agriculturally-driven deforestation linked to international supply chains. While payments for environmental services (PES) have been advocated in many contexts as an efficient and pro-poor environmental policy to incentivize conservation, they have been the subject of intense scrutiny and criticism for leading to mixed and sometimes adverse environmental and social outcomes. It remains unclear whether such an approach is an improvement over existing approaches to govern sustainability in supply chains and especially as a mechanism for reducing ecosystem conversion. Here we conduct an ex-ante analysis to examine the potential outcomes of using a standalone PES scheme versus existing standalone market exclusion mechanisms (MEM) to govern commodity supply chains. The analysis develops a theoretical framework to examine the potential effectiveness, cost-effectiveness, equity, and legitimacy of the two approaches and then applies this framework using qualitative analysis of secondary and interview data. Using this theory-driven evaluation approach we examine the case of the Brazilian Cerrado, where a PES mechanism is currently being proposed to achieve zero-deforestation targets in soy supply chains. We find that both standalone approaches suffer from different strengths and challenges and would be better used in combination. We conclude that a mixture of strict market exclusion with positive incentives and enabling programs that are targeted at the poorest farmers would be more effective, cost-effective, equitable, and legitimate. However, in the future such supply chain focused soy deforestation control efforts in the Cerrado must be complemented by broader jurisdictional approaches to addressing deforestation and sustainable development that include all land use actors, not just soy farmers. These more inclusive and balanced initiatives can help ensure that avoiding deforestation goes hand in hand with supporting sustainable livelihoods for a wider range of actors in the Cerrado.

Recommended citation: Garrett, R. D., J. Grabs, F. Cammelli, F. Gollnow, S.A. Levy (2022). "Should Payments for Ecosystem Services be used to implement zero-deforestation supply chain policies? The case of soy in the Brazilian Cerrado." World Development. 152.

Effectiveness-equity tradeoffs in enforcing exclusionary supply chain policies: Lessons from the Amazonian cattle sector

Published in Journal of Cleaner Production, 2022

Abstract: To address ongoing deforestation for global food commodities production, companies and governments have adopted a range of forest-focused supply chain policies. In the Brazilian Amazon, these policies take the form of market exclusion mechanisms, i.e., immediately dropping suppliers who have cleared their land after a specific cut-off date. Theory suggests that strict exclusionary policies such as these are likely to result in both negative livelihood effects and reduced effectiveness of the policy if some farmers are not able to comply. It is proposed that a more cooperative model of enforcement that uses flexible and negotiated approaches to compliance management may enable more marginal and disadvantaged farmers to achieve compliance, thereby improving both the effectiveness of supply chain policies and their equity. Through our case study of cattle in the Brazilian Amazon, we examine the degree to which a purportedly cooperative supply chain policy exhibits coercive tendencies at different tiers and the degree to which these tendencies influence effectiveness and equity outcomes of the policy. We show that, surprisingly, even cooperative models of enforcement are prone to exhibit coercive tendencies in multi-tier supply chains, leading to severe equity shortcomings. We provide recommendations and a research agenda to mitigate effectiveness-equity tradeoffs in multi-tier, forest-focused supply chain policies in the aim to improve the design, adoption, and implementation of such policies.

Recommended citation: Cammelli, F., S. A. Levy, J. Grabs, J. Valentim & R.D. Garrett (2022). "Effectiveness-equity tradeoffs in enforcing exclusionary supply chain policies: Lessons from the Amazonian cattle sector." Journal of Cleaner Production. 332.

Forests and sustainable development in the Brazilian Amazon: History, trends and future prospects

Published in Annual Review of Environment and Resources, 2021

Abstract: Ongoing deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon is the outcome of an explicit federal project to occupy, integrate, and “modernize” the region. Although there have been isolated periods of deforestation control, most recently between 2004 and 2012, the overall trajectory of the region since the colonial period has been one of forest loss and degradation. Addressing this challenge is especially urgent in the context of adverse climate-ecology feedbacks and tipping points. Here we describe the trends and outcomes of deforestation and degradation in the Amazon. We then highlight how historical development paradigms and policies have helped to cement the land use activities and structural lock-ins that underpin deforestation and degradation. We emphasize how the grounds for establishing a more sustainable economy in the Amazon were never consolidated, leading to a situation where forest conservation and development remain dependent on external programs—punitive measures against deforestation and fire and public social programs. This situation makes progress toward a forest transition(arresting forest loss and degradation and restoring forest landscapes) highly vulnerable to changes in political leadership, private sector engagement, and global market signals. After summarizing these challenges, we present a suite of measures that collectively could be transformational to helping overcome destructive path dependencies in the region. These include innovations in agricultural management, improved forest governance through landscape approaches, developing a local forest economy, sustainable peri-urbanization, and the empowerment of women and youth. These initiatives must be inclusive and equitable, enabling the participation and empowerment of local communities, particularly indigenous groups who have faced numerous historical injustices and are increasingly under threat by current politics.

Recommended citation: Garrett, R. D., S. A. Levy, (2021). "Forests and sustainable devleopment in the Brazilian Amazon: History, trends and future prospects." Annual Review of Environment and Resources. 46:1.

Have food supply chain policies improved forest conservation and rural livelihoods? A systematic review

Published in Environmental Research Letters, 2021

Abstract: To address concerns about the negative impacts of food supply chains in forest regions, a growing number of companies have adopted policies to influence their suppliers’ behaviors. With a focus on forest-risk food supply chains, we provide a systematic review of the conservation and livelihood outcomes of the mechanisms that companies use to implement their forest-focused supply chain policies (FSPs)—certifications, codes of conduct, and market exclusion mechanisms. More than half of the 37 cases that rigorously measure the outcomes of FSP implementation mechanisms find additional conservation and livelihood benefits resulting from the policies. Positive livelihood outcomes are more common than conservation additionality and most often pertain to improvements in farm income through increases in crop yields on coffee and cocoa farms that have adopted certifications or codes of conduct. However, in some cases certifications lead to a reduction in net household income as farmers increasingly specialize in the certified commodity and spend more on food purchases. Among the five cases that examine conservation and livelihoods simultaneously, there is no evidence of tradeoffs or synergies—most often an improvement in one type of outcome is associated with no change in the other. Interactions with public conservation and agricultural policies influence the conservation gains achieved by all mechanisms, while the marketing attributes of cooperatives and buying companies play a large role in determining the livelihood outcomes associated with certification. Compliance with the forest requirements of FSP implementation mechanisms is high, but challenges to geospatial monitoring and land use related selection biases limit the overall benefits of these policies. Given the highly variable methods and limited evidence base, additional rigorous research across a greater variety of contexts is urgently needed to better understand if and when FSPs can be successful in achieving synergies between conservation and livelihoods.

Recommended citation: Garrett, R. D.,S. A. Levy, F. Gollnow & X. Rueda (2021). "Have food supply chain policies improved forest conservation and rural livelihoods? A systematic review." Environmental Research Letters. 16.

Criteria for Effective Zero-Deforestation Commitments

Published in Global Environmental Change, 2019

Abstract: Zero-deforestation commitments are a type of voluntary sustainability initiative that companies adopt to signal their intention to reduce or eliminate deforestation associated with commodities that they produce, trade, and/or sell. Because each company defines its own zero-deforestation commitment goals and implementation mechanisms, commitment content varies widely. This creates challenges for the assessment of commitment implementation or effectiveness. Here, we develop criteria to assess the potential effectiveness of zero-deforestation commitments at reducing deforestation within a company supply chain, regionally, and globally. We apply these criteria to evaluate 52 zero-deforestation commitments made by companies identified by Forest 500 as having high deforestation risk. While our assessment indicates that existing commitments converge with several criteria for effectiveness, they fall short in a few key ways. First, they cover just a small share of the global market for deforestation-risk commodities, which means that their global impact is likely to be small. Second, biome-wide implementation is only achieved in the Brazilian Amazon. Outside this region, implementation occurs mainly through certification programs, which are not adopted by all producers and lack third-party near-real time deforestation monitoring. Additionally, around half of all commitments include zero-net deforestation targets and future implementation deadlines, both of which are design elements that may reduce effectiveness. Zero-net targets allow promises of future reforestation to compensate for current forest loss, while future implementation deadlines allow for preemptive clearing. To increase the likelihood that commitments will lead to reduced deforestation across all scales, more companies should adopt zero-gross deforestation targets with immediate implementation deadlines and clear sanction-based implementation mechanisms in biomes with high risk of forest to commodity

Recommended citation: Garrett, R.D., S. Levy et al (2019). "Criteria for Effective Zero-Deforestation Commitments." Global Environmental Change. 54.

Measuring impacts of supply chain initiatives for conservation: focus on forest-risk food commodities

Published in Meridian Insitute, 2018

Abstract: This report summarizes the main outcomes of forest conservation initiatives adopted by global agro-food companies based on a systematic literature search and review. The study focusses on beef and leather, soybean, oil palm, coffee, and cocoa sectors which have the highest risk of being cultivated on areas that have been deforested. It looks at four categories of supply chain initiatives: collective aspirations, company pledges, codes of conduct, and standards. Based on the evidence available, it concludes that the effectiveness of company pledges for zero deforestation varies substantially across regions. Pledges in the Amazon designed within cattle value chains show positive results at the farm level for early adopters of the agreement; but those results are overshadowed by larger deforestation by late adopters and in other places. Pledges within palm oil value chains have not been effective in Indonesia. The High Conservation Value and High Carbon Stock approaches contribute to improved conservation outcomes because they enable protection of biodiversity and high carbon ecosystems, not just forests. Finally, it concludes that neither sanction based nor incentive based standards are effectively tackling deforestation among smallholders. More significantly, the review finds that there is no information on the conservation outcomes associated with existing collective aspirations or codes of conduct. In addition, in spite of the abundance of corporate pledges, there is very little evaluation of those efforts.

Recommended citation: Garrett, R. D., X. Rueda, S. A. Levy, J.F. Bermudez Blanco, S. Shah (2018). "Measuring impacts of supply chain initiatives for conservation: focus on forest-risk food commodities." Meridian Insitute. Washington, D.C.