Understanding the Stickiness of Commodity Supply Chains Is Key to Improving Their Sustainability

Related GLP Member: Tiago Reis, Patrick Meyfroidt, Erasmus zu Ermgassen, Chris West, Toby Gardner, Simon Bager, Michael Lathuilliere, Javier Godar


  • Stickiness is key for accountability of supply-chain actors
  • The soy traders with the largest market share are geographically stickier
  • Stickier traders also show higher soy-deforestation risk
  • Stickier traders are also signatories of zero-deforestation commitments

Science for Society

Consumption of food in locations far from production is a cause of forest loss, especially in developing countries that lack the resources, capacity, or political will to distinguish legal from illegal deforestation. In response, civil society and consumers have pushed companies to make zero-deforestation commitments. For these commitments to be effective, supply chain transparency is crucial, but stickiness also plays a key role. Stickiness refers to stable and consistent commercial relationships between companies and regions. Stickiness may influence how companies attain zero-deforestation commitments.

For instance, companies with non-sticky sourcing patterns may move geographically, not committing to achieving long-term sustainability. Here, we look at the soy trade in Brazil, the world's largest exporter, to analyze supply chain stickiness and explain why it is essential to curb deforestation. We show that stickiness is associated with deforestation risk.


Commodity trade is central to the global economy but is also associated with socio-environmental impacts, for example, deforestation, especially in producer countries. It is crucial to understand how geographic sourcing patterns of commodities and commercial relationships between places and actors influence land-use dynamics, socio-economic development, and environmental degradation. Here, we propose a concept and methodological approach to analyze the geographic stickiness of commodity supply chains, which is the maintenance of supply network configurations over time and across perturbations. We showcase policy-relevant metrics for all Brazilian soy exports between 2003 and 2017, using high-resolution supply chain data from www.trase.earth. We find that the Brazilian soy traders with the largest market share exhibit stickier geographic sourcing patterns, and that the supply network configurations between production places and traders become increasingly sticky in subsequent years. Understanding trade stickiness is crucial for supply chain accountability, because it directly affects the effectiveness of zero-deforestation commitments.