Research project Bringing the social dimension into deforestation-free supply chain initiatives
‘Bringing the social dimension into deforestation-free supply chain initiatives: Lessons from Europe’s beef and soy imports from Brazil’ is a three-year research project carried out by researchers at Stockholm University and Osnabrück University (2021-2023). The project is funded by Formas.
Global demand for beef, soybeans, and palm oil is a principal driver of deforestation. Deforestation has significantly contributed to climate change and biodiversity loss, but the loss of forests has also represented a fundamental threat for the 1.6 billion people worldwide whose livelihoods depend on forest resources. In recent years, private and public initiatives for contributing to deforestation-free supply chains have increased. Whereas previous research has focused on the effectiveness of primarily corporate-led initiatives, we know little about the diverse initiatives’ effects on local communities in producing sites.
This project’s aim is to advance the research frontier by contributing to a better understanding of how deforestation-free supply chain initiatives could be designed and implemented in a way that accounts for the rights and interests of local communities. The project draws on and contributes to literatures on transnational supply chain governance, accountability, and, political ecology. Empirically, the project focuses on different types of private and public zero-deforestation initiatives, such as corporate commitments, certification schemes, mandatory due diligence regulations in European countries, and landscape approaches in producing sites.
The project asks the following questions:
1. To what extent do existing public and private initiatives for creating deforestation-free supply chains take indigenous peoples’ and local communities’ rights and interests into account?
2. What are the direct and indirect impacts of zero-deforestation policies in supply chains on indigenous communities and local populations?
3. How could we rethink initiatives for reducing imported deforestation in order to avoid negative social impacts?
We address these questions in the context of the supply chains of beef and soy from Brazil to selected European countries. Brazil is a major exporter of beef and soy and is key in the global struggle against deforestation. These sectors have contributed to massive deforestation and human rights violations in Brazil, which makes them a critical case for studying how private and public actors could govern complex supply chains more effectively and responsibly.
Methodologically, the project relies on comparative case studies, document analysis, semi-structured interviews, and field research in two Brazilian regions.
Taken together, the project will produce original, theoretically guided, and empirically grounded findings, that will contribute to a better understanding of the question of how deforestation-free supply chain initiatives could be designed and implemented in a way that creates synergies between environmental and social sustainability.