Sustainable commodity sourcing requires measuring and governing land use change at multiple scales

Related GLP Member: Erasmus zu Ermgassen, Cécile Renier, Andrea Santos Garcia, Patrick Meyfroidt

Abstract

The increased availability of remote sensing products and new legislative agendas are driving a growing focus on farm-level traceability and monitoring to tackle commodity-driven deforestation. Here, we use data on land use change in Brazil (1985–2021) from Mapbiomas to demonstrate how analyses of the drivers of deforestation are sensitive to the scale of analysis: while pixel- or property-level analyses identify proximate drivers of deforestation, analyses at larger scales (subnational regions or countries) capture more complex land use dynamics, including indirect land use change. We argue that initiatives which seek to monitor and address commodity-driven deforestation—such as the European Union's deforestation due-diligence regulation and the World Business Council on Sustainable Development's Greenhouse Gas Protocol—must be conscient of these wider land use dynamics. Only by measuring progress and defining success at multiple scales can initiatives for sustainable commodity sourcing create the right mix of incentives for addressing deforestation.