Commodities

We at Proforest work throughout supply chains to support sustainable production and sourcing of a wide range of commodities.

As well as core commodities like palm oil, sugar, soy, beef, rubber, cocoa, timber and forest products, we are developing our expertise with coconut, red seaweed, tea, pineapple, coffee and much more. When working with a new commodity, we draw upon our 20 years of experience

Soy consumption is on the rise, with the largest use coming from the animal feed industry. The main sustainability challenges in soy production are the conversion of forests and other natural ecosystems, legal compliance, and respect for communities’ land rights.

Change can only be achieved at scale if a range of actors can work together to drive progress. That’s why we help companies understand the soy in their supply chains, whether it’s sourced directly or embedded in animal products. Our support ranges from strategic advice and setting commitments to supply chain mapping, building internal capacity for action and supplier engagement.

Proforest continues to support the CGF’s Soy Buyer’s Coalition and the Soft Commodities Programme. And in 2018, we launched the Soy Toolkit. This work is funded by the Global Environment Facility and designed to help traders, food processors and retailers understand the main initiatives available for the responsible sourcing of soy.

One of the core commodities we work with at Proforest is sugar, supporting refiners and brands like Nestlé, PepsiCo, Kellogg and Mars to implement their responsible sourcing commitments.

At production level, we work with mills to drive responsible practices in their own operations and their wider supply base. We also support collaboration involving multiple companies and mills to jointly address issues in a supply base, landscape or sector. 

Labour rights is a core focus area for our work on sugar, as sugar cane cultivation often involves smallholders, manual labour, and a seasonal and migrant labour force, which leads to increased risk of human rights issues.

We help tackle this by capacity building on human rights, labour, and health and safety issues, like Chronic Kidney Disease (CKDu), the safe handling of pesticides and HCV identification and management. We also work directly with mills to develop and implement policies on worker housing, hydration and recruitment.

70% of the world’s cocoa comes from West Africa with 80-90% of that produced by smallholder farms mostly managed with family labour. Cocoa is an important source of  people’s livelihoods in producing countries. But the cocoa supply chain faces many environmental and social issues, including low incomes for producers and workers, child labour, gender disparity, deforestation and forest degradation caused by farm expansion.

That’s why we support key companies in the supply chain, helping them to implement responsible sourcing commitments through the development of deforestation policies, action plans, and supplier scorecards.

We also work with a number of cocoa and chocolate companies, and are addressing the key issues in production at the landscape level through the development of the Asunafo-Asutifi Landscape program, which aims to both tackle deforestation and enhance cocoa productivity and farmers’ livelihoods. Beyond our engagement with companies, we are a member of the Monitoring and Evaluation Working Group, and the Climate Smart Agroforestry Technical Working Group.

We work with more than 50 companies, helping retailers, manufacturers, traders and refiners to understand their responsible sourcing commitments and implement them throughout their supply chain. We also work directly with palm growers to improve production practices and help them to put environmental and social best practices into action.

Collaboration is essential to achieve impact at scale. That’s why we support a range of multi-stakeholder initiatives, including a longstanding partnership with the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). Together, we are accelerating improved practice within the palm oil sector by focusing on shared responsibility, review of the Principles and Criteria, guidance on children’s rights and benchmarking standards. 

We coordinate the TFA Africa Palm Oil Initiative, which brings together governments, companies, civil society and community groups to develop a sustainable palm oil sector in Africa. We are involved with the Palm Oil Collaboration Group and its various working groups: Implementation Reporting Framework Active Working Group (IRF AWG), Production and Protection Beyond Concessions (PPBC), Addressing Social Issues Workstream and Independent Verification Working Group.  

The increasing demand for natural rubber and an increased awareness of the social, environmental and governance risks of this commodity has led to a push for change. Key industry players aim to address issues linked to rubber production and processing, including land tenure conflicts, human and labour rights abuses, illegal logging and deforestation.

We have supported this positive shift by providing technical support to downstream companies, as well as working directly with producers. We have also driven sector-wide collaboration by contributing to the Global Platform for Sustainable Natural Rubber (GPSNR) Assurance Model Review. Through collaboration with the Chinese Chamber of Commerce of Metals, Minerals and Chemicals (CCCMC), we continue to support development of Guidance on Sustainable Natural Rubber.

Coconut is a crop dominated by smallholder production, where yields are low and declining. Small producers are often poorly organised, poorly informed and generate poor returns to support precarious livelihoods. Meanwhile, global demand is growing. New investment in sustainable production is needed to keep pace with this demand. This could bring both new opportunities and new social and environmental risks, neither of which are yet well understood. Solutions are needed to enable small producers to step up and benefit from coconut as a sustainable crop in sustainable landscapes.

At present the industry has no common guidelines to shape and assure sustainability in coconut supply chains. However, there is emerging interest in responsible sourcing and nascent collaboration between supply chain actors through the Sustainable Coconut Charter. Proforest is supportive of coordinated efforts across multiple stakeholders to drive sustainability in the coconut sector. And we are already working on supply chain assessment, engagement and issues around responsible production, looking to bring to bear our experience and expertise from other commodity supply chains on responsible sourcing from smallholders.

Cattle raising has been linked with the largest deforestation areas on the planet, particularly in Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay. Brazil is one of the largest beef producing, exporting and consuming countries globally, and cattle raising has also been associated with forced labour, land grabbing and conflicts with indigenous communities.

We have been working on the beef agenda in Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, Colombia and Australia to drive sustainability in the cattle sector and address the most pressing challenges. Our stakeholder support ranges from strategic advice and developing commitments and policies, to supply chain mapping, risk assessment, supplier engagement and capacity building for policy implementation.

Proforest is a member of the Brazilian Roundtable on Sustainable Beef (GTPS), the Joint Working Group on Land-use Change of the Global Roundtable on Sustainable Beef (GRSB) and Working Groups in the Colombia Zero-Deforestation Agreement for the Beef Sector.

While the majority of our work addresses forest-risk commodities, such as cocoa and palm oil, we also work on forest management, timber legality and forest product supply chains. We support sustainable practices by providing stepwise guidance on responsible forest management to production companies, with the aim of helping them gain certification for schemes like the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), which enables them to trade with global sustainable markets.  

When it comes to timber, legality is core to our work, which often focuses on two international legal instruments: the EU FLEGT Action Plan and the EU Timber Regulation (EUTR). We advise importers on EUTR and other legal requirements, whilst in producer countries, we help governments and others to establish credible legality assurance systems for FLEGT, EUTR and more. We also provide timber legality verification training for NGOs.

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