Managing Biodiversity Risks in Global Supply Chains

Key Themes:
  • Power and Legacy
  • Interdependence and Inclusivity
  • Operational and Funding Models

Developing new methods to assess the biodiversity impact of agricultural commodities such as palm oil and soy.

About the project

The challenge

Agricultural commodities such as palm oil and soy are closely associated with biodiversity loss and habitat degradation. These commodities feature in the supply chains of countless companies and are embedded within both food and non-food products of global economic importance.

Business and governments increasingly recognise the need to manage the negative impacts on biodiversity but so far, there are no globally valid methods or tools available to identify and link risks and impacts to specific supply chains, products or actors. Linking end products to their biodiversity impact can help the public and private sectors make decisions that reduce that impact.

The response

Starting with the Cerrado system in Brazil, the Contacted project in which the Luc Hoffmann Institute is a partner is developing new methodologies to assess and measure the biodiversity impact of particular commodities. The work links entire supply chains – from consumers and traders to producers. It helps companies, governments and conservation practitioners understand and manage the biodiversity footprints of agricultural commodity production.

The project involves several WWF offices in promoting cross-scale research and engagement for supply chain transformation. The focus is between Brazil and Europe because large volumes of soy destined for Europe originate in Brazil, European companies have secured commitments for responsible soy and consumer awareness is most advanced there. However, sustainability in the soy supply chain, even in Europe, is believed by some to be facing a gridlock.

The impact

The research involves modelling the impacts of land use change on species and habitats and linking the impacts to local agricultural production systems and consumption activities through trade models. Contacted incorporates the values and perspectives of diverse stakeholders on how threats are perceived, experienced, and managed in order to stimulate innovation for sustainability.

Contacted brings key research institutions together to work with WWF offices to test how these approaches can be integrated as a decision-support tool in conservation and business practice.

The work on supply chain impacts will be integrated into Trase, a new online platform which lets companies, governments and others track flows of ‘forest-risk’ commodities from production landscapes to consumer markets. It will also be integrated into the work on soy sustainability of WWF Brazil and WWF US and the WWF Living Planet report. The project team is working with WWF’s Moore Foundation project under the Forest and Agriculture Markets Initiative to help transition soy and beef supply chains towards deforestation-free.

Project partners

The Luc Hoffmann Institute has partnered with WWF-UK, the Cambridge Conservation Initiative at the University of Cambridge, UNEP-WCMC, the Sustainable Consumption and Production group at Stockholm Environmental Institute (SEI), the University of York, and the Centre for Biodiversity and Conservation Science (CBCS) at the University of Queensland.

Project leaders

Malika Virah Sawmy (Luc Hoffmann Institute); Mike Barrett (WWF-UK); Toby Gardner, Chris West and Jon Green (SEI York); Neil Burgess and Paz Durán (WCMC); Andrew Balmford (University of Cambridge); Hugh Possingham, Duan Biggs, James Watson, Helen Ross and Angela Guerrero González (Centre for Biodiversity and Conservation Science at the University of Queensland).

Start date: July 2016

End date: April 2018

Related reading

The implementation crisis in conservation planning: could ‘mental models’ help?

Business-NGO partnerships in global value chains: part of the solution or part of the problem of sustainable change?

Want to get in touch?

Email the project team at
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