Transparency through Technology

Transparency is a key sticking point in improving forest governance and enforcement around the world. Corporate and political reforms for transparency, as well as the implementation of traceability systems, can ensure that legal and sustainable commodities can be distinguished from those which have been produced in violation of local rights or forest and land use governance. At the same time, targeted investment in new timber and commodity identification technologies can have game-changing impacts on keeping traceability schemes honest and verifiable. EIA examines opportunities to expand transparency and traceability technologies and systems across forest countries and in consumer markets.

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The spread of smartphones to nearly all corners of the world’s forests brings high-tech tools into the hands of loggers and forest defenders alike, and the development of complex digital traceability systems for timber supply chains are within reach though not yet integrated into any national governance systems. By showing what’s possible when data is made available through our investigations and reports, EIA aims to illustrate why such data needs to be transparently available for forest governance to function effectively.

To strengthen data collection a range of timber ID technologies have been developed over the past decade that intend to identify and trace timber species and origin across the supply chain.  EIA has been at the heart of these efforts, engaging with scientists and law enforcement, sending samples for testing, and identifying gaps. Through further engagement with funders, scientists, and other NGOs, we seek to develop universal sampling protocols and to ensure that samples collected by various groups can feed into a common database.

While individual data collection may allow for one-off verification, comprehensive systems – that cover entire supply chains or national timber sectors – can address the broader systemic risks that allow illegal logging and deforestation to continue. EIA is currently developing a forest sector supply chain traceability system in Gabon, while also working to replicate these systems to other countries. In addition to traceability in forest countries, supply chain transparency will be most effective at shifting global markets when consumers possess real information about the source of their products. EIA has developed the Origin App to provide species and country of harvest information straight to individuals, connecting a product’s traceability from point of origin through to the final consumer.

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