A new initiative hopes to standardize how companies measure and report their progress on achieving environmental benchmarks. Called the Accountability Framework initiative (AFi), the program was designed by a broad set of partner organizations including the Rainforest Alliance, The Nature Conservancy, Verité, the World Resources Institute, and the World Wildlife Foundation.
- In 2016, the world lost over 73.4 million acres of tree cover, an area almost as large as Italy. How can business leaders exert influence on corporations and governments to stop the destruction of trees for short-term gain?
- How can the economic needs of forest-based communities and businesses be balanced with environmental goals, especially climate mitigation?
- There is increasing evidence that one of the best ways to protect forests is to use them sustainably for production purposes. Should we create more alliances between conservation organizations and the forest product sectors?
- The AFi aims to catalyze a broad shift to ethical practices in agricultural and forestry production and trade, so that these activities protect natural ecosystems, respect human rights, and improve the wellbeing of people and communities in commodity-producing landscapes.
- Using the AFi, companies, governments, and nonprofits can figure out where their commitments need to be updated to meet these comprehensive standards, and how they might need to accelerate implementation or broaden the scale of their goals.
- The French government has introduced a National Strategy to Combat Imported Deforestation, and the European Union is introducing an integrated approach to addressing deforestation.
The AFi is not a formal designation or certification that companies can pursue, but rather a structure that companies can follow and measure themselves against to ensure that their environmental and ethical aims are accomplishing what they are meant to.
There is growing public concern over climate change, biodiversity loss, environmental degradation, and human exploitation, which is driving corporate responsibility. Forward-thinking business leaders have pledged to transform their agriculture and forestry production systems and supply chains to protect ecosystems, people, and communities.
These commitments support important global initiatives and targets, including the Paris Climate Agreement, the New York Declaration on Forests, UN Sustainable Development Goals, and the Bonn Challenge for landscape restoration.
The lack of consistency across corporate, nonprofit, and government pledges have madeit difficult to assess global progress in any meaningful way.The AFi is designed to apply across different contexts and standardizes the different metrics and requirements of various global initiatives on climate and labor justiceinto a single, comprehensive framework.
It includes everything from universal standards for supply chain oversight, respecting the rights of indigenous communities, standardizing definitions and metrics for progress, and including smallholder suppliers in supply chains to support economic justice and ethics.
According to Jeff Milder, professor at Cornell and director of programs at the Rainforest Alliance, “the goal of the AFi is not to set up participating entities in competition with each other, but rather to make it easier for governments, companies, and nonprofits to learn from each other and hold themselves accountable to a set of broadly understood standards that are sorely needed in the push for environmental and ethical protections.”