Complex food systems cannot be transformed by piecemeal approaches. The commercial production of soy, beef and palm oil is major driver of economic growth and livelihoods enhancement for producing countries. Indonesia’s palm oil production has lifted 2.6 million of smallholders out of poverty, for instance.
However, soy, beef and palm oil contribute to nearly 70% of tropical deforestation. The consequences include losses to habitats and biodiversity, rising Green House Gas emissions which contribute to climate change, as well as the degradation of essential ecosystem services which we depend on for our very survival. A growing global population, rising incomes and changing diets will continue to increase demand for these agricultural commodities and put more pressure on the planet’s finite natural resources. It has never been more important to forge new ways of doing business that enable ‘good growth’ without the associated environmental consequences of unsustainable agricultural production and deforestation.
By addressing simultaneously the production, demand, and finance components, the UNDP-led, GEF-6 funded, Good Growth Partnership (GGP), a global programme of five projects, worked to remove deforestation from the soy, beef, and palm oil supply chains in Brazil, Paraguay, Indonesia and Liberia between 2017 and 2022. The Partnership promoted an integrated supply chain approach to reduce the drivers of deforestation caused by commodity production.
Working with a full range of stakeholders, from small-scale producers to governments and global corporations, as well as civil society, GGP promoted a holistic approach to sustainability that encompassed improving the enabling environment, through dialogue platforms, policy reform, farmer support systems and land use planning, as well as promoting sustainable financing and raising awareness of and demand for sustainable commodities.
This GGP integrated approach, treating different elements of commodity supply chains as integrated and overlapping, has proven effective in achieving positive, sustainable food system transformation. In particular:
- In Brazil, GGP helped local governments strengthen ecosystem protection and implement the national Forest Code and producers adopted sustainable practices. Demand for sustainable soy was fostered through enhanced supply chain transparency and capacity of companies to source sustainably. GGP also developed business cases for producing on degraded land instead of converting natural ecosystems.
- In Indonesia, GGP supported a National Action Plan for Sustainable Palm Oil and policy reform for sustainable production and land use, while increasing farmers’ adoption of sustainable practices and protecting important ecosystems. The Partnership increased supply chain transparency and demand for sustainable palm oil, including in Indonesia.
- In Paraguay, GGP improved cattle ranchers’ capacity to preserve important ecosystems and connectivity within their land and to adopt sustainable practices. The Partnership also fostered a national definition for sustainable beef.
- In all three above countries, the capacity of financial institutions was strengthened to make investment decisions taking into account forest and land use risks.
- In Liberia, a national strategy for sustainable palm oil was adopted through a multi-stakeholder process, and GGP worked with communities to protect conservation areas. Entry into the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil certified market with a National Interpretation enhanced Liberia’s trajectory towards sustainability.
Therefore, over five years, the GGP integrated approach has fostered system transformation in global food systems, addressing production, demand, and investment not as separate issues, but as symbiotic and interdependent layers of the supply chain. The Partnership helped to bring over 28 million hectares of land under improved natural resource management and practices, avoiding over 140 million metric tonnes of CO2 emissions (lifetime direct and indirect).
The Partnership has also built the financial backbone of sustainable production and land use, by training finance institutions in how to look for, identify, and manage forest risks in investment decisions, and supporting the development of financial tools, products, and regulations. GGP has also worked hard to raise awareness of, and demand for sustainable products, and engaging the private sector at every point in the supply chain, to increase knowledge and commitment to reducing deforestation.