Video Q&A

GCP’s Sarah Lake: ‘Landscapes means addressing things beyond a singular supply chain or commodity’

How the creation of new geospatial tools can improve transparency
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Sarah Lake is the Head of the Drivers of Deforestation Program at the Global Canopy Programme (GCP). She spoke to CIFOR on the sidelines of the Global Landscapes Forum about the link between supply chains and sustainable landscapes.

What is your organization’s mission?

I work at the Global Canopy Programme as the head of their supply chain program. Global Canopy seeks to transition to a zero-deforestation, deforestation-free economy… looking at different approaches, looking at companies’ involvement, some of the financial elements, trying to create the right investment and drive sustainable production, but also looking at landscape-level investments.

We have three core programs at Global Canopy: the supply chain one that I work on, as well as one looking at unlocking forest finance, and one looking at landscape approaches.

One of the key programs I work on that will be featured at the Global Landscapes Forum is TRASE– Transparency for Sustainable Economies- developed in partnership with the Stockholm Environment Institute. It’s a new transparency platform that reveals the material flows of key forest risk commodities like soy, cattle, and palm oil- tracking it all the way from the municipality of production to the country of import, identifying key supply chain actors along the way.

Do you think we are making progress in terms of transparency in supply chains?

I think that’s a great question because there’s a lot of momentum towards commitments, towards stepping up to making these very ambitious promises, but there’s not necessarily much monitoring of whether those promises are being met, or even if we’re making progress towards implementing them.

Part of what I’m hearing more from NGO communities, as well as the private sector and government, is the need to be able to monitor implementation of these commitments. That’s something that Global Canopy and TRASE is working on- building up tools in order to support improved monitoring and reporting, in both an efficient and a meaningful way. So we can understand which types of interventions are most effective and where to really focus our energies.

How has the uptake of these tools been? Are stakeholders eager or hesitant to adopt them?

I think it depends on the specific type of system. I think there’s a lot of duplication right now in disclosure efforts. There’s a lot being asked, especially of companies in terms of information that various organizations want of companies- information in terms of where they’re sourcing from, what they’re doing, and this can become quite burdensome.

I think in terms of some of the platforms, we’re seeing excitement about the opportunity of interactive big data platforms to reduce this redundancy, particularly the ability to very quickly upload information at scale to make it easier for companies to communicate that they are doing the right things, and to credibly show that by using some of these geo-spatial tools like TRASE.

The keyword of the Global Landscapes Forum is “landscapes”. What does that term mean to you?

“Landscapes” for us means addressing things beyond a singular supply chain or a singular commodity, but looking holistically at the problem of commodity-driven deforestation.

So for us, looking specifically at issues around substitutions. If problems arise around soy, are companies simply substituting other commodities that could be just as problematic? And where do you see leakage? You see a clampdown on the Amazon under Brazil’s Soy Moratorium, for example, but [deforestation is now spreading elsewhere]. So taking a holistic approach that understands more clearly how interventions have unwanted outcomes and how we can best prepare to address those outcomes.

Why did you decide to participate in the Global Landscapes Forum?

It’s a nice venue that brings together a wide variety of actors working in the space of sustainable landscapes. Not simply just private sector, or commodity-focused, but people working on issues as broad as REDD and people from all different geographies. It’s nice to come to an event and have people working in different countries in Africa, Europe and Indonesia all having conversations that are not limited in their scope.

*This is part of a series of interviews from the 2016 Global Landscapes Forum: Climate Action for Sustainable Development in Marrakesh, Morocco

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