Designing effective and equitable zero-deforestation supply chain policies

Related GLP Member: Janina Grabs, Samuel A. Levy, Rachael Garrett

Note: This paper grew out of GLP meeting sessions on supply chain governance at the last Open Science Meeting.


  • Many firms buying forest-risk products made zero-deforestation commitments (ZDCs).
  • To achieve conservation goals, ZDCs may exclude vulnerable producers from markets.
  • Following 7 policy design principles can achieve effectiveness-access equity synergies.
  • We evaluate 28 ZDC implementation mechanisms in 4 leading forest-risk commodities.
  • Companies should better support vulnerable producers in achieving compliance.


In response to the clearing of tropical forests for agricultural expansion, agri-food companies have adopted promises to eliminate deforestation from their supply chains in the form of ‘zero-deforestation commitments’ (ZDCs). While there is growing evidence about the environmental effectiveness of these commitments (i.e., whether they meet their conservation goals), there is little information on how they influence producers’ opportunity to access sustainable markets and related livelihood outcomes, or how design and implementation choices influence tradeoffs or potential synergies between effectiveness and equity in access. This paper explores these research gaps and makes three main contributions by: i) defining and justifying the importance of analyzing access equity and its relation to effectiveness when implementing forest-focused supply chain policies such as ZDCs, ii) identifying seven policy design principles that are likely to maximize synergies between effectiveness and access equity, and iii) assessing effectiveness-access equity tensions and synergies across common ZDC implementation mechanisms amongst the five largest firms in each of the leading agricultural forest-risk commodity sectors: palm oil, soybeans, beef cattle, and cocoa. To enhance forest conservation while avoiding harm to the most vulnerable farmers in the tropics, it is necessary to combine stringent rules with widespread capacity building, greater involvement of affected actors in the co-production of implementation mechanisms, and support for alternative rural development paths.