Many companies have made commitments and adopted sustainability standards to reduce environmental impacts in their supply chains. These commitments have the potential to transform sustainability practices, yet their effectiveness relies on implementation of sustainability practices throughout the supply chain.

To illuminate the conditions under which supply chain sustainability initiatives can lead to improved conservation and sustainability outcomes, researchers asked:

What factors influence whether a supply chain sustainability initiative successfully achieves its intended sustainability outcomes?

Exploration of the question began with the development of a research framework, When and Why Supply Chain Sustainability Initiatives ‘Work’: Linking Initiatives’ Effectiveness to their Characteristics and Context. The framework identified several categories of influencing factors, including the mechanism and context in which an initiative is implemented.

Recognizing that commitments are developed and implemented in complex environments under unique conditions, research drew on the framework to uncover nuances and context surrounding supply chain sustainability initiatives as a tool for sustainability—informing how, where, and why they are successful or not.

With a focus on the deforestation hotspots of Brazil and Indonesia, this research assessed and quantified the amount of total deforestation that can be attributed to commodity production within and across tropical biomes.

Lead Authors:

Paul West, Deepak Ray, and James Gerber (University of Minnesota)

This research uncovers insights for sustainable cotton production in the United States, including implementation at the farm-level and a comparison of sustainability initiatives. Farmer, firm, and framework interviews reveal experiences and perspectives of individuals throughout the cotton supply chain.

Lead Authors:

Roian Atwood, Jon Clift, Ashley Wilcox,  Stan Meiburg, Allan Odour, and Kathryn Keehne (Wake Forest University), Christy Slay and Jessica Kosak (The Sustainability Consortium), Teresa Garcia-Moore (University of Arkansas)

Supporting smallholder farmers for a sustainable cocoa sector: Exploring the motivations and role of farmers in the effective implementation of supply chain sustainability in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire


The research contributes to understanding and improving the effectiveness of company programs in the cocoa sector in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana through identification of factors that shift farmer behavior. Hundreds of farmer surveys revealed determinants of effective implementation of cocoa productivity and sustainability practices.

Lead Authors:

Ingrid Schulte, David M. Landholm, Haseeb Bakhtary, Stasiek C. Cabezas, Simon Siantidis, Sanggeet M. Manirajah, and Charlotte Streck (Climate Focus)

Characterizing compliance in cattle supply chains: What factors encourage deforestation-free production in the Brazilian Amazon?


This research relies on exceptionally rich data to provide the first property-level assessment of the main factors that relate to ongoing deforestation in supply chains covered by the Zero-Deforestation Cattle Agreements in Brazil.

Lead Authors:

Marin Skidmore, Fanny Moffette, Lisa Rausch, and Holly K. Gibbs (University of Wisconsin-Madison)


See our high-level summary of the research and follow-up discussions on the work, focusing primarily on key insights, next steps, and possible future research topics our Symposium discussions illuminated.