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At COP26: Promoting sustainable trade through transparency and traceability

At COP26: Promoting sustainable trade through transparency and traceability 

At the COP26 Indonesia Pavilion on 8 November, European Forest Institute (EFI) expert Thomas Sembres presented ideas on promoting sustainable trade through transparency and traceability in forest, agriculture commodities and trade. Speaking at the Indonesian Pavilion, Sembres made the case for raising the visibility of sustainability, and for creating more differentiation in global markets between what is sustainable and what is not. This needs to be done at scale for mainstream markets, he said, “not just for the niche markets of certified or premium products.”
 
While more robust traceability systems are needed as a support to more visibility for sustainability, they will not be enough unless accompanied by broader access to information, said Sembres. “Most traceability systems that exist nowadays are non-transparent traceability systems. This means that most market actors don’t have access to this information and cannot use it to promote sustainable production and trade.”
 
Bringing transparency to a traceability system is a delicate task, he said, with some actors fearing that more accessible information would be used against them. “At EFI we are working on this delicate task of helping governments use supply chain transparency to encourage progress towards sustainability.”
 
On the question of bridging differences between producer countries and consumer countries related to transparency and traceability systems, Sembres confirmed that more data was now available than ever before – but said that dialogue between market actors or between governments remained difficult. The key reason for this gap are the complexity of numerous data and traceability platforms, he said, along with distrust around the use of the data.
 
What is needed now, Sembres said, is simplicity and trust based on transparency and inclusive, structured and equitable processes on choice of data sources and data use. The experience of Terpercaya was a good example of how this could be achieved, he said.
 
“We need to build supply chains of understanding and trust. The Transparency Pathway is a way to bring public and private supply chain actors together to shift mainstream commodity markets towards sustainability.”