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New Platform Helps Companies ‘Trase’ Deforestation in Their Supply Chains

Click here to view full screenshot. A visualization of the soy supply chain from municipalities in Brazil to the ‘consumer’ country in 2015, where green indicates that supply chain actors have a zero-deforestation commitment for soy and red indicates they do not. | Image credit: Trase

Commodity production drives two-thirds of tropical deforestation worldwide, and tracing those commodities has proven difficult. With this in mind, the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) and the Global Canopy Programme (GCP) have launched an interactive online platform called Trase – Transparency for Sustainable Economies – that allows companies, financial institutions, governments and others to explore data on the flows of globally-traded commodities such as palm oil, soya, beef and timber that are driving deforestation and other environmental and social impacts worldwide.

“We see Trase as the start of a data-driven revolution in supply chain transparency,” said Javier Godar, a Senior Research Fellow at SEI and one of the platform’s founders. “The blanket transparency offered by Trase can help catalyse improvements across the board: in production practices, procurement and investment policies and the governance of supply chains by both producer and consumer governments.”

Trase dynamically maps and visualizes the movement of commodities from their municipality of origin to the exporters, importers and ‘consumer’ countries. For now, the platform only covers Brazilian soy, but Trase expects to include all Latin American soy by 2017, followed by beef in Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay, and then other major commodities such as Brazilian timber and Indonesian oil palm. Over the next five years, Trase aims to expand to cover over 70 percent of total production in major forest risk commodities.

“The opacity of global supply chains has been one the biggest challenges for companies trying to live up to their sustainability commitments,” Sarah Lake, the head of the supply chain programme at GCP, said. “Trase can detail the trade of key commodities, from the major growing regions to the country of consumption, together with key information on the sustainability risks and performance measures. It assesses both production areas and different supply chain actors all at the push of a button.”

Trase is a direct response to the ambitious commitments made by leaders across sectors to achieve deforestation-free supply chains by 2020. It has been difficult to assess if companies are making progress on these commitments without information on where they source from and the impacts in those areas – information that will soon be available with Trase. The advances come not a minute too soon – from the information we already have, companies will need to make significant advances if they are to achieve their goals.

“Transparency is the first major step in undertaking the challenge of eliminating deforestation from our value chain,” said Lucas Urbano, the PMO for Danone’s Climate Nature and Cycle Sustainability Strategy. “Trase represents a new kind of radical transparency than can help to take the discussion to another level, moving away from the blame game to start a practical discussion around issues and solutions. We are entering a new era where data and information will be universally available, so the only thing we can do is face the problem and change.”

Hannah Furlong is an Editorial Assistant for Sustainable Brands, based in Canada. She is researching the circular economy as a Master's student in Sustainability Management at the University of Waterloo and holds a Bachelor's in Environment and Business Co-op. Hannah… [Read more about Hannah Furlong]

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