Discussion paper: Ground-truthing to improve due diligence on human rights in deforestation-risk supply chains

Ground-truthing report - Bagyeli woman in Cameroon
Ground-truthing report - Bagyeli woman in Cameroon

Discussion paper: Ground-truthing to improve due diligence on human rights in deforestation-risk supply chains

Industrial agriculture continues to drive land grabs, deforestation and human rights abuse in the palm oil, soy, beef, leather, rubber, cocoa, timber, and pulp and paper sectors at the tropical forest frontier.

Many of the world’s largest investment companies, retailers, consumer goods manufacturers and traders have clear commitments on zero deforestation and protecting human rights. Yet their human rights due diligence practices remain wholly inadequate, being over-reliant on paper-based assessments of compliance from secondary sources and company self-reporting.

Where audits are undertaken on the ground, they typically have major shortcomings, such as using poor indicators to quantitatively and qualitatively measure any negative human rights impacts, and failing to consult with affected communities and local civil society organisations.

Our research reveals that ‘ground-truthing’ can strengthen due diligence processes, thereby mitigating the risk of harmful impacts on human rights and the environment. It can reduce related reputational damage to companies, and positively influence the behaviour of companies upstream in the supply chain.

This paper highlights how ground-truthing offers major potential to improve risk assessments and audits to prevent harmful supply chain impacts on human rights. It intends to stimulate dialogue on actions and innovations needed to increase company and investor use of ground-truthing to enable better human rights due diligence.

‘Ground-truthing’

The use of information about the actual situation on the ground, gathered from primary or secondary sources that are independent of companies in the supply chain, as opposed to paper-based compliance indicators and company self-reporting.

‘Due Diligence’

A risk management process implemented by a company to identify, prevent, mitigate, and account for how it addresses environmental and social risks and impacts in its operations, supply chains, and investments.