Independent monitoring of supply chains is key for the success and credibility of the Transparency Pathway. It contributes to building trust by holding actors accountable to their respective responsibilities and improves information systems over time. Its important contribution has been recognised notably in a variety of trade agreements between the EU and timber-producing countries in the context of forest law enforcement, governance and trade (FLEGT).
Independent monitoring may be particularly necessary in the following situations:
Situation 1. Official data access and platform development are too limited to advance with steps 3, 4 and 5, independent transparency initiatives may provide best available data estimates and data visualisation solutions to fill the gap.
For instance, the map below of Indonesian palm oil mills was produced through the collaborative effort of more than 10 nongovernmental organisations and research institutions and published on independent platforms – Global Forest Watch and Trase – in 2019.
Step 6 possible milestone
- An independent organisation is mandated to conduct independent monitoring and is given access to necessary data that may not be publicly disclosed.
Palm oil mills across Indonesia. Source: Trase and WRI.
Independent initiatives can also be more agile in using newly available data and transparency innovations in real-time information systems. An example of this is the ‘Rapid Response Monitoring System’ of NGO Mighty Earth that each month combines satellite imagery with supply chain data along with targeted local investigations to alert agribusinesses in the palm oil, soy and cattle sector about their exposure to new cases of deforestation. Some of these innovations may then be integrated into institutional information systems to make them more dynamic and responsive.
Situation 2. There is a discrepancy between the quality of the data used in the official data platform (Step 5) and what non-state actors would consider as best available data. Independent validation of official datasets generated through remote sensing or other innovative methods can be useful.
Situation 3. The risk management mechanism negotiated creates reporting obligations to supply chain actors (e.g. mandatory disclosure of farm-level traceability information in high-risk places) that involve confidential or sensitive information. In that case, the information may be disclosed only to a mandated independent observer, tasked by the government to verify the information provided and to hold the supply chain actors accountable.