Thanks to the Commodity Footprints dataset released by SEI York, it is now possible to combine assessments of both deforestation and water use in agricultural commodity supply chains. In this brief, we discuss the benefits and challenges of looking beyond deforestation to assess the environmental sustainability of supply chains.

Key messages

  • Water use and deforestation assessments are complementary in describing sustainable supply chains.
  • Reducing tropical deforestation in supply chains can reduce risks linked to climate change and water resources.
  • Top forest-risk commodities imported into the EU rely exclusively on precipitation.
  • Other commodities, less prone to deforestation, require irrigation and pose water-related risks in agricultural supply chains.
  • Important global blind spots persist in accounting for water use in supply chains, especially for beef and commodities that depend on tree plantations such as wood, oil palm or rubber.

The discussion brief serves as an evaluation of data availability to assess both deforestation and water use in supply chains at a global scale, ahead of more in-depth analyses of Brazilian commodity exports in the TraseH2O project.