Supply chains are the “link between consumption and its impacts”, according to WWF.
In the charity’s Living Planet Report WWF said consumption was the “driving force behind the unprecedented planetary change we are witnessing” through increased demand for energy, land and water.
“Products are transferred to consumers along supply chains, which frequently involve a series of complex interactions between producers, traders, manufacturers and retailers,” said the report.
“Supply chains are the link between the driving forces of environmental change, like consumption activities, and the pressures these impose (such as land-use change), the state of the environment and the resulting impacts (for example, species loss).”
The report said researchers were using big data and tracking and analytical tools to “match commodities and their supply chains to specific impacts on biodiversity” and “increasing the transparency around these complex relationships may help to stop biodiversity loss”.
“Once commodities disperse into the supply chain, these pathways often become complex and opaque. This is especially true for highly processed deforestation-linked commodities such as soy and oil palm, which are often embedded in other products such as animal feed and processed food,” said the report. “Embedded consumption can form a significant component of a consumer’s total footprint.”
The report added: “Adapting production, supply and consumption activities to create a significantly more sustainable system requires a detailed understanding of how these components link together, the places and actors involved, their respective roles, and the associated environmental impacts.”
WWF said it was calling for the “most ambitious global agreement yet” to address the issue. “Decision makers at every level need to make the right political, financial and consumer choices to achieve the vision that humanity and nature thrive in harmony on our only planet.
“What is clear is that without a dramatic move beyond ‘business as usual’ the current severe decline of the natural systems that support modern societies will continue.”
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