What can governments do to create forest-positive commodity value chains?

Around 25% of global emissions come from the agricultural sector, and about half of these come from deforestation and forest degradation, contributing to global warming. 

Following the endorsement of the New York Declaration on Forests (NYDF) at the 2014 UN Climate Summit in New York, deforestation was supposed to be cut in half between 2014 and 2020, with 150 million hectares of land being restored. However, according to a report published by NYDF, we continue to lose 26 million hectares of forest per year — an area the size of the United Kingdom.

What can be done to counter this dramatic trend?

The Good Growth Partnership (GGP) is one element of the answer. Launched in 2017 by UNDP with support from the Global Environment Facility, in collaboration with Conservation International, the International Finance Corporation, UN Environment Programme and World Wildlife Fund, GGP develops initiatives to reduce deforestation and enable sustainable development in the soy, beef, and palm oil supply chains, which are considered to be among the biggest drivers of tropical deforestation today.

Good Growth Partnership (GGP) Global Project Manager Pascale Bonzom outlines three key actions that governments should take now to facilitate forest-positive outcomes.

Action 1 – Taking a system approach and linking with national development agendas

Many approaches to drive change aren’t realistic and strategic, because they don’t address the barriers to change that lie between actors, and in their relational dynamics​. Supply chain approaches miss key local/regional actors not considered part of the supply chain, while landscape or jurisdictional approaches miss key parts of the supply chain operating outside the geography. Hence, there is a need for governments to take a system approach.

A system approach means that the debate needs to be elevated from a focus on supply chains to one that considers the full land use system in the landscape and jurisdictions where commodities are produced, as well as the global political economy and context around commodities production and trade.

For example, GGP applied such approach on the soy supply chain with a focus on the Cerrado in Brazil. A workshop was organized that led stakeholders to identify the most powerful levers to accelerate and bring lasting positive changes in that system and strengthen their collaboration around these areas. The Cerrado Soy System Mapping is an example showing how we now go about working with complexity on the ground.

A system approach will make more obvious the connections between various themes and sectors such as agriculture, trade, climate, biodiversity, water, energy, livelihoods, health, gender, governance, etc., and hence make the forest positive commodities agenda more attractive to policy makers, as one that can advance sustainable human development as a whole and the national agendas of producer and consumer countries alike.

Understanding and considering the causal links and feedback loops between these themes will also help policy makers make informed policy decisions, in relation to policy coherence, policy reform and removing perverse incentives.

Action 2 – Encouraging Multistakeholder Collaboration

Such a system approach, to truly be effective, needs to engage and enable stakeholders with different interests, who all face common sustainability problems, to align and collectively learn, innovate and act together in a complex situation. We have learnt that it is crucial that such multistakeholder approaches be inclusive, participatory, with all voices being heard, and that conflicts between stakeholders be worked with, as opposed to ignored or downplayed. All stakeholders from government to producers, off-takers, traders, financial institutions and civil society, including indigenous people, need to be included and heard.

A key role for government is thus to support such multistakeholder processes for collaborative action.

UNDP has supported Indonesia since 2014 in developing a multistakeholder platform for sustainable palm oil. The platform developed a common vision and codified its collective action into a National Action Plan for Sustainable palm, which was passed into law in 2019. Now 14 ministries are mandated to work together and with the private sector, civil society and the donor community to implement it.

Action 3 – Ensuring government coordination and breaking down silos

Through its work on the ground, we have noted that policy action towards forest positive commodity supply chains has so far mostly worked in silos, with Ministries of Environment pushing an agenda often disconnected from and sometimes even conflicting with that of the Ministries of Agriculture, Economy and Finance, for instance. We have found that it is extremely important that policies from various ministries and jurisdictional levels (from national to subnational) align to support sustainable production. Hence there is a clear role for cross ministerial coordination. This role should be taken by the most appropriate transversal Ministry or Government function.

For instance, in Indonesia this role is being taken by the Coordinating Ministry of Economic Affairs. But it could be a Planning Ministry or even the Finance Ministry. In addition, the national action plan is cascaded into Provincial and District Action Plans that help with policy coherence across scales.


The Partnership has 4 years of experience supporting 4 countries towards sustainable commodities Some of the most significant impacts are:

– Over 7 million hectares of land benefiting from improved natural resources management and practices enabled by the Partnership.

– Over 29 million metric tonnes of direct CO₂ emissions avoided due to land use and protection strategies developed or supported by the Partnership[1].

– 9 government-led multi-stakeholder action plans for the production of sustainable commodities — 2 national, 4 sub-national and 3 district-level — facilitated and enabled by the Partnership including 6 that have moved to the implementation phase.

– 29 new policy and regulation reforms enabling sustainable production and land use supported with the technical and multi-stakeholder convening power of the Partnership.

– 3 national and subnational strategies, designed with technical support from the Partnership, to systemically train small-scale farmers en mass and strengthen extension services.

– 87 companies engaged by the Partnership advancing on commitments to source reduced deforestation commodities.

– 44 financial tools, products and regulations identified or developed that support investments in sustainable production and land restoration.

– A vibrant global community of practice of 200+ local practitioners.

The Partnership is now shifting to a new phase (phase 2), building on GGP´s results, assets and learnings to date, to deepen its efforts in existing countries and landscapes, while also taking them to new ones and new commodities. It will also continue feeding into global dialogues and learning processes as an effective way for scale-up and replication.

As the only safe, natural, and proven technology for carbon capture and storage, forests are our best hope for balancing carbon emissions with removals. Halting deforestation and allowing damaged forests to grow back would be equivalent to reducing current emissions from all sources by up to 30%.

Ms Bonzom concludes “as we embark on the follow-up to the UN Food System Summit, which is expected to lead to the implementation of National Pathways towards Food System transformation, I hope that taking a system approach, encouraging multistakeholder collaboration, and ensuring government coordination will inspire and guide governments and policy makers[2].”



[1] Different tools have been used to calculate data on CO₂ emissions avoided in two GGP child projects. Please contact us if you need further clarifications.

[2] Pascale Bonzom presented these points during two important occasions, “The journey of a chocolate bar: how to transform food systems through sustainable value chains and integrated approaches” session, part of the IUCN World Conservation Congress that took place in Marseille, and the De-risking agriculture supply chains – Including forests in due diligence processes” webinar organized by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of Japan (MAFF), in September 2021.


By |2021-10-08T12:28:18+00:00October 8th, 2021|BlogNews, Blogs, News|