Contacted: Managing Biodiversity Risks in Global Supply Chains

Growing human demands are posing an increasing pressure on natural systems, affecting key biodiversity regions around the world. A comprehensive understanding of these threats and the drivers behind them is needed to create a shift in the conservation approaches that effectively target the sources of biodiversity loss.

Agricultural commodities, such as palm oil and soy, are strongly associated with biodiversity loss and habitat degradation. These commodities feature in the supply chains of countless companies and are embedded within both food and non-food products of global economic importance.

Business and governments are increasingly recognising the need to manage the negative impacts on biodiversity associated with these supply chains. But so far, there are no globally valid methodologies or tools available to identify and link risks and impacts to specific supply chains, products or actors. Linking end products to their specific biodiversity impact can help public and private sector actors to make decision that reduce their biodiversity impact.

The response – New Tools to Help Manage Impacts on Biodiversity

Starting with the Cerrado system in Brazil, the Contacted project will develop, as proof of concept, new methodologies to assess and measure the impact that the production of particular commodities has on biodiversity. The work will link entire supply chains – from consumers and traders to producers. This decision–support system will help companies, governments and conservation practitioners to understand and manage the biodiversity footprints of agricultural commodity production.

The methods being developed are spatially explicit and trans-disciplinary. They involve modeling the impacts of land use change on species and habitats and linking the impacts to local agricultural production systems and consumption activities via trade models. Methods will draw from multiple sources of data and approaches including spatially explicit models of biodiversity (species habitat suitability), land-use change and macro-economic trade.

Whilst the methods described represent state-of-the-art solutions to link trade to biodiversity threats, the Contacted project also recognises that perceptions of “threats” are value-laden and understood differently by different stakeholders and sectors. Contacted will therefore incorporate the values and perspectives of diverse stakeholders into how threats are perceived, experienced, and managed in order to foster innovation for sustainability.

Project Methodologies and Outcomes

  • Data-driven analysis of how threat operates: generate new knowledge on how commodity production has affected biodiversity in the past decades. This knowledge will allow us to move from broad linkages (e.g. the negative impact of soy on habitats) to specific ones (e.g. how does soy farming impact upon specific species).
  • Analysing driver-threat dynamics: Analysing links between global patterns of commodity production, trade and consumption, and the resulting threats to biodiversity and habitats, at scales relevant to decision-makers. In particular, fine scale information on agricultural production, biodiversity impacts and consumption is used within a Multi-Regional Input-Output (MRIO) framework to demonstrate how supply chains link consumption to biodiversity impact.
  • Assess and foster transformative change: The scientific information on threats and drivers along the supply chain, and across scales, will be used to assess how differing perceptions among stakeholders affect the understanding of, and response to, threats. The process of sharing and discussing these differing perceptions enables the identification of innovative solutions for conservation and sustainability.

THE ENGAGEMENT – Multiple Institutions with Multiple Frameworks Coming Together

The Luc Hoffmann Institute is convening key institutions with different expertise to test proof-of-concept methodologies. The UNEP-World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC) and the University of Cambridge Conservation Research Institute will quantify the impact of agricultural commodity production on species and habitats within priority regions (starting with the Cerrado). The Sustainable Consumption and Production group at the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) York Centre will develop methods to quantify driver-threat dynamics in the context of global supply chains. The Centre for Biodiversity and Conservation Science (CBCS) at the University of Queensland will support the assessment of enabling conditions and barriers to sustainability. Finally, the project brings these key research institutions to work collaboratively with WWF offices to test how these approaches can be integrated as a decision-support tool in conservation and business practice.

THE IMPACT – A New Methodology for Biodiversity Conservation

As proof-of-concept, the project will be testing whether this approach can be mainstreamed with businesses, governments and NGOs as a decision-support tool to compare the locally specific impacts of practices and actors and their response for the management of biodiversity risks.


WWF-UK; Cambridge Conservation Initiative at the University of Cambridge; UNEP-WCMC; Sustainable Consumption and Production group at Stockholm Environmental Institute, University of York; Centre for Biodiversity and Conservation Science (CBCS) at the University of Queensland.

Project Leadership

Malika Virah Sawmy (Luc Hoffmann Institute); Mike Barret (WWF-UK); Toby Gardner, Chris West and Jon Green (SEI York); Neil Burgess and Paz Durán (WCMC); Andrew Balmford (University of Cambridge); Hugh Possingham, Duan Biggs, James Watson, Helen Ross and Angela Guerrero González (Centre for Biodiversity and Conservation Science at the University of Queensland).

Main image: An aerial view of the Mekong Delta in Southern Vietnam. Photo © TANTYO BANGUN / WWF

Chris JohnsonContacted: Managing Biodiversity Risks in Global Supply Chains