The core commodities we work with through our consultancy services and grant-funded programmes are palm oil, sugar, soy, beef, rubber, cocoa and timber and forest products. We have also worked with coconut, coffee, cotton, plantain, red seaweed​​​​​​​, pineapple and shea. Whenever we work with a new commodity, we draw upon our 20 years of experience in global supply chains.

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 our support ranges from setting commitments to responsible sourcing, building internal capacity for action and engaging with suppliers, landscapes, and the soy sector. 

Proforest continues to support the Consumer Goods Forum Forest Positive Coalition and the Soft Commodities Forum. And in 2018, we launched the Soy Toolkit, a capacity building programme, designed to help traders, food processors and retailers understand how to make progress and deliver on responsible sourcing of soy. 

One of the core commodities we work with at Proforest is sugar, supporting mills, refiners and brands like Nestlé, PepsiCo, Kellogg, General Mills, Barry Callebaut 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 human rights, worker housing, hydration and recruitment. 

Regenerative agriculture is another key focus area, to ensure cane sugar is produced in an environmentally friendly manner, in terms of reducing emissions and improving carbon capture. 

We also support companies to implement programmes to improve soil health in their supply base, restore landscapes through reforestation, conserve water resources and improve smallholder livelihoods. 

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 Programme, 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 such as AAK, Cargill, PepsiCo and Musim Mas, 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 support to the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). Together, we are accelerating improved practice within the palm oil sector by advancing thinking around shared responsibility; ensuring that the RSPO Principles and Criteria remain relevant and best-in-class whilst independent smallholders are supported in their sustainability efforts; and continuously improving assurance systems. 

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 also facilitating the Palm Oil Collaboration Group (POCG) and its various working groups: Implementation Reporting Framework Active Working Group (IRF AWG), Production and Protection Beyond Concessions (PPBC), Social Issues Working Group (SIWG) and Independent Verification Working Group (IV WG). We also support the Consumer Goods Forum (CGF)'s Forest Positive Coalition to develop and implement their palm oil commitments and roadmap. 

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 and facilitating the Global Platform for Sustainable Natural Rubber (GPSNR), developing systems and guidance development as well as carrying selected studies for this initiative. 

Through another 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 smallholder dominated crop. Smallholders often have low productivity due to a range of factors: ageing crops; changing coconut market prices; high transportation costs; and a lack of knowledge, organisation and infrastructure support. Global demand for coconut products is growing, but there is a lack of investment to support smallholder needs.  

New investments in sustainable coconut production are needed, to allow smallholders to increase their understanding of new opportunities, as well as the social and environmental risks in the industry.  

At present, the coconut industry lacks common guidelines to shape and assure sustainable supply chains. However, there is an emerging interest in responsible sourcing and growing collaboration between supply chain actors, thanks to the Sustainable Coconut Charter

Proforest supports coordinated multi-stakeholder efforts to drive sustainability in the coconut sector. We work on supply chain assessment, and engage on issues around responsible production, bringing our experience from other commodity supply chains in terms of 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.

Shea trees are one of the most economically and culturally important tree species in the Sahel region, growing in 21 African countries. A non-timber forest product, shea trees grow in the wild and are also found in agroforestry parklands. In its many forms, shea is an important income and food source for local communities. Global demand for shea is increasing for use in cosmetics and as a cocoa butter equivalent, as legislated (EU) by the so-called Chocolate Directive (2000/36/EC). Picked and processed mainly by women, the shea industry provides a low income to some of the most vulnerable or marginalised communities at the heart of the supply chain. However, there are a number of critical issues in the sustainability of shea supply chains, for both the people and environments they live and work in.

We are working with companies to assess the key risks in shea supply chains, assessing compliance with program goals and indicators, providing guidance and technical support towards enhancing responsible sourcing practices. Key issues that need to be addressed include economic empowerment and financial stability for collectors; their safety, health and welfare; as well as access to land and protected rights. In addition, we are looking at the environmental protection of the shea ecosystem to increase long-term food security and to protect the vulnerable shea parklands.

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