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Traceability matters: A conceptual framework for deforestation-free supply chains applied to soy certification

Cordula Hinkes (Johann Heinrich von Thuenen Institute, Federal Research Institute for Rural Areas, Forestry and Fisheries, Thuenen Institute of Market Analysis, Braunschweig, Germany)
Günter Peter (Johann Heinrich von Thuenen Institute, Federal Research Institute for Rural Areas, Forestry and Fisheries, Thuenen Institute of Market Analysis, Braunschweig, Germany)

Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal

ISSN: 2040-8021

Article publication date: 5 February 2020

Issue publication date: 5 November 2020

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Abstract

Purpose

Sustainability certification of agricultural commodities might be one measure to ensure deforestation-free supply chains. The purpose of this paper is to add to previous assessments of soy certification systems with respect to “zero deforestation” criteria by focusing on the aspect of traceability.

Design/methodology/approach

A conceptual framework for assessing certification systems is proposed based on a literature review. This concept is applied to 16 soy certification systems, considering previous studies and available chain-of-custody certification options.

Findings

Among the sample, five certification systems may contribute to ensuring deforestation-free soy supply chains, as they have relatively high “zero deforestation” and assurance requirements and support at least segregation. Other chain-of-custody systems are insufficient in terms of traceability, but still dominate the market.

Research limitations/implications

The assessment considers only certification systems that have been benchmarked according to criteria developed by the European feed industry. Regular updates and further assessments of certification systems for other commodities are recommended.

Practical implications

Supply chain actors and policymakers are informed about certification systems that may ensure deforestation-free sourcing. However, different factors influence the implementation of zero deforestation commitments, such as adverse effects, economic trade-offs and new certification and traceability concepts.

Social implications

The implementation of deforestation-free supply chains should contribute to achieving sustainable development goals. Potential adverse social effects need to be considered.

Originality/value

This study focuses on the so far rather neglected but essential aspect of traceability, which is required for ensuring deforestation-free sourcing along the whole supply chain.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors gratefully thank colleagues of the Thuenen Institute of International Forestry and Forest Economics for previous collaboration and knowledge exchange on the subject of assessing certification systems, and the anonymous reviewers for their constructive feedback and suggestions that significantly helped to improve the manuscript. An earlier version of this article was presented as a poster at the 58th annual conference of the German Society of Economic and Social Sciences in Agriculture (GEWISOLA) in Kiel, Germany, September 12-14, 2018.

Citation

Hinkes, C. and Peter, G. (2020), "Traceability matters: A conceptual framework for deforestation-free supply chains applied to soy certification", Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal, Vol. 11 No. 7, pp. 1159-1187. https://doi.org/10.1108/SAMPJ-04-2019-0145

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

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