Many companies are using corporate sustainability commitments, standards and certification systems, and other market tools to try to achieve sustainability outcomes and eliminate detrimental environmental impacts from their supply chains.
While there is an underlying assumption that these actions result in longer-term sustainability outcomes, most current evaluations cannot infer causality–that is, whether an outcome is attributable to market interventions or to other factors.
Clearly communicated and accessible research aimed at understanding the relationship between interventions and on-the-ground impacts is lacking for many sectors, yet this type of information is vital for implementing existing commitments and informing future market-based interventions for environmental sustainability.
With the support of the Supply Chain Sustainability Research Fund, researchers are exploring the current state of knowledge regarding the effectiveness of certification and standards, corporate sustainability commitments, and finance sector interventions for sustainability and conservation outcomes.
WHAT OTHER KNOWLEDGE GAPS EXIST?
Through the work of the Supply Chain Sustainability Research Fund, researchers recognize that gaps still remain in the understanding of the effectiveness of private sector interventions.
There is now evidence about impacts, but not on all approaches or all locations of interest. Insufficient evidence on a diverse range of approaches, commodities, and geographies limits opportunities for comparison and analysis of the contextual factors that may affect the success or failure of particular initiatives. More cross-sectoral and cross-geography research is needed to capture the broader trends, impacts, and “ripple” effects.
Research on market-based approaches to conservation has not kept up with the pace of their growth. Causal relationships between corporate initiatives and conservation outcomes are thus difficult to assess.
Research is limited on particular initiatives, notably on collective aspirations and corporate codes of conduct.
Reliable data is a necessary first step to telling an impact story. Good data requires resources and pressure on standard-setters and corporate scheme leaders for transparency, and coordination with private sector actors that are part of the schemes.
Systematic mapping and coding of the evidence base can help key actors and decision-makers find and understand the evidence.