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Bart Los

University of Groningen

Bart Los is professor of technological progress and structural change at the Groningen Growth and Development Centre at the University of Groningen, the Netherlands, and is currently vice-president of the international input-output association. He has been joint leader of the World Input-Output Database project (www.wiod.org), and has recently investigated the distribution of factor incomes in GVCs, as well as the role of GVCs in transmitting trade shocks, such as Brexit. He holds a PhD from the University of Twente, the Netherlands.
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publication
Sustainable Global Supply Chains Report 2022

Global supply chains affect the economy, the environment and social welfare in many ways. Worldwide, economies are experiencing global supply shortages today, affecting key industries such as automotive and consumer electronics as well as vaccine and medical supplies industries. These preoccupy policymakers, who are debating independent national production capacities and restrictions on international trade, but also large companies, which consider reshoring production and abandoning just-in-time procurement. At the same time, the greening of the global economy requires a restructuring of global production to massively decrease its environmental footprint. This creates new supply chain challenges – how to move towards circular economies and how to reorient energy-intensive industries towards renewables and green hydrogen, for example. And let‘s not forget: Consumers are increasingly demanding higher social and environmental standards. Transparency requirements and binding due diligence obligations will in particular affect countries that export raw materials and labour-intensive goods produced under problematic environmental and social conditions. All of this calls for policies that shape global supply chains in accordance with globally agreed social and environmental objectives. Policies along these lines will have to balance the legitimate interests of different countries and they may easily fail to achieve their objectives unless they are firmly grounded in a thorough understanding of the respective structures in supply chains, including the power relations between the actors. Further, the economic, social and environmental effects of alternative policy options need to be well understood. Science can make an important contribution here, especially if it maintains a constant dialogue with politics and society. This is why the international “Research Network Sustainable Global Supply Chains” was initiated by the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). It currently comprises about 100 internationally leading scientists from all over the world and is jointly coordinated by our four institutes. Its tasks are: To conduct and stimulate research that contributes to making supply chains more sustainable; and to collect and synthesize the best international research on this topic and make it accessible to policy makers and other societal actors. In addition to its own research, the network organises academic conferences and discussions with policymakers, organises a blog and produces podcasts. With this report – the first in a new annual series – we present new research highlights, provide a forum to debate controversial supply chain topics and identify policy-relevant research gaps for the network‘s future work. The report is, at the same time, an invitation to participate in the discussions on how investment, production and trade will be reorganized in a global economy that has to respond to geopolitical challenges.

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publication
Should payments for environmental services be used to implement zero-deforestation supply chain policies? The case of soy in the Brazilian Cerrado

Over the past decade public and private actors have been developing a variety of new policy approaches for addressing agriculturally-driven deforestation linked to international supply chains. While payments for environmental services (PES) have been advocated in many contexts as an efficient and pro-poor environmental policy to incentivize conservation, they have been the subject of intense scrutiny and criticism for leading to mixed and sometimes adverse environmental and social outcomes. It remains unclear whether such an approach is an improvement over existing approaches to govern sustainability in supply chains and especially as a mechanism for reducing ecosystem conversion. Here we conduct an ex-ante analysis to examine the potential outcomes of using a standalone PES scheme versus existing standalone market exclusion mechanisms (MEM) to govern commodity supply chains. The analysis develops a theoretical framework to examine the potential effectiveness, cost-effectiveness, equity, and legitimacy of the two approaches and then applies this framework using qualitative analysis of secondary and interview data. Using this theory-driven evaluation approach we examine the case of the Brazilian Cerrado, where a PES mechanism is currently being proposed to achieve zero-deforestation targets in soy supply chains. We find that both standalone approaches suffer from different strengths and challenges and would be better used in combination. We conclude that a mixture of strict market exclusion with positive incentives and enabling programs that are targeted at the poorest farmers would be more effective, cost-effective, equitable, and legitimate. However, in the future such supply chain focused soy deforestation control efforts in the Cerrado must be complemented by broader jurisdictional approaches to addressing deforestation and sustainable development that include all land use actors, not just soy farmers. These more inclusive and balanced initiatives can help ensure that avoiding deforestation goes hand in hand with supporting sustainable livelihoods for a wider range of actors in the Cerrado.

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blog
How to find synergies between effectiveness and equity when designing supply chain sustainability policies
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publication
Effectiveness-equity tradeoffs in enforcing exclusionary supply chain policies: Lessons from the Amazonian cattle sector

To address ongoing deforestation for global food commodities production, companies and governments have adopted a range of forest-focused supply chain policies. In the Brazilian Amazon, these policies take the form of market exclusion mechanisms, i.e., immediately dropping suppliers who have cleared their land after a specific cut-off date. Theory suggests that strict exclusionary policies such as these are likely to result in both negative livelihood effects and reduced effectiveness of the policy if some farmers are not able to comply. It is proposed that a more cooperative model of enforcement that uses flexible and negotiated approaches to compliance management may enable more marginal and disadvantaged farmers to achieve compliance, thereby improving both the effectiveness of supply chain policies and their equity. Through our case study of cattle in the Brazilian Amazon, we examine the degree to which a purportedly cooperative supply chain policy exhibits coercive tendencies at different tiers and the degree to which these tendencies influence effectiveness and equity outcomes of the policy. We show that, surprisingly, even cooperative models of enforcement are prone to exhibit coercive tendencies in multi-tier supply chains, leading to severe equity shortcomings. We provide recommendations and a research agenda to mitigate effectiveness-equity tradeoffs in multi-tier, forest-focused supply chain policies in the aim to improve the design, adoption, and implementation of such policies.

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publication
Desgning effective and equitable zero-deforestation supply chain policies

In response to the clearing of tropical forests for agricultural expansion, agri-food companies have adopted promises to eliminate deforestation from their supply chains in the form of ‘zero-deforestation commitments’ (ZDCs). While there is growing evidence about the environmental effectiveness of these commitments (i.e., whether they meet their conservation goals), there is little information on how they influence producers’ opportunity to access sustainable markets and related livelihood outcomes, or how design and implementation choices influence tradeoffs or potential synergies between effectiveness and equity in access. This paper explores these research gaps and makes three main contributions by: i) defining and justifying the importance of analyzing access equity and its relation to effectiveness when implementing forest-focused supply chain policies such as ZDCs, ii) identifying seven policy design principles that are likely to maximize synergies between effectiveness and access equity, and iii) assessing effectiveness-access equity tensions and synergies across common ZDC implementation mechanisms amongst the five largest firms in each of the leading agricultural forest-risk commodity sectors: palm oil, soybeans, beef cattle, and cocoa. To enhance forest conservation while avoiding harm to the most vulnerable farmers in the tropics, it is necessary to combine stringent rules with widespread capacity building, greater involvement of affected actors in the co-production of implementation mechanisms, and support for alternative rural development paths.

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publication
Have food supply chain policies improved forest conservation and rural livelihoods? A systematic review

To address concerns about the negative impacts of food supply chains in forest regions, a growing number of companies have adopted policies to influence their suppliers’ behaviors. With a focus on forest-risk food supply chains, we provide a systematic review of the conservation and livelihood outcomes of the mechanisms that companies use to implement their forest-focused supply chain policies (FSPs)—certifications, codes of conduct, and market exclusion mechanisms. More than half of the 37 cases that rigorously measure the outcomes of FSP implementation mechanisms find additional conservation and livelihood benefits resulting from the policies. Positive livelihood outcomes are more common than conservation additionality and most often pertain to improvements in farm income through increases in crop yields on coffee and cocoa farms that have adopted certifications or codes of conduct. However, in some cases certifications lead to a reduction in net household income as farmers increasingly specialize in the certified commodity and spend more on food purchases. Among the five cases that examine conservation and livelihoods simultaneously, there is no evidence of tradeoffs or synergies—most often an improvement in one type of outcome is associated with no change in the other. Interactions with public conservation and agricultural policies influence the conservation gains achieved by all mechanisms, while the marketing attributes of cooperatives and buying companies play a large role in determining the livelihood outcomes associated with certification. Compliance with the forest requirements of FSP implementation mechanisms is high, but challenges to geospatial monitoring and land use related selection biases limit the overall benefits of these policies. Given the highly variable methods and limited evidence base, additional rigorous research across a greater variety of contexts is urgently needed to better understand if and when FSPs can be successful in achieving synergies between conservation and livelihoods.

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publication
Factor incomes in global value chains: The role of intangibles.

Recent studies document a decline in the share of labour and a simultaneous increase in the share of residual (‘factorless’) income in national GDP. We argue the need for study of factor incomes in cross-border production to complement country studies. We define a GVC production function that tracks the value added in each stage of production in any country-industry. We define a new residual as the difference between the value of the final good and the payments to all tangibles (capital and labour) in any stage. We focus on GVCs of manufactured goods and find the residual to be large. We interpret it as income for intangibles that are (mostly) not covered in current national accounts statistics. We document decreasing labour and increasing capital income shares over the period 2000-14. This is mainly due to increasing income for intangible assets, in particular in GVCs of durable goods. We provide evidence that suggests that the 2000s should be seen as an exceptional period in the global economy during which multinational firms benefitted from reduced labour costs through offshoring, while capitalising on existing firm-specific intangibles, such as brand names, at little marginal cost.

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publication
Measuring bilateral exports of value added: a unified framework.

We provide a unified framework for measuring bilateral exports of value added. We outline a general methodology that encompasses the measures introduced by Johnson and Noguera (2012) (value added consumed abroad) and Los et al. (2016) (value added in exports), to which we refer as VAX-C and VAX-D, respectively. In addition we suggest a novel third measure, VAX-P, which indicates the value added used abroad in the final stage of production. We show that they can all be derived with the method of hypothetical extraction in a general input-output model. This is helpful in comparing and contrasting their characteristics. As a corollary, we show that for VAX-C and VAX-P the sum of bilateral measures is equal to the corresponding aggregate measure, but that this is generally not true for VAX-D. We illustrate all measures with empirical examples computed on the basis of the World Input-Output Database. These indicators can found at www.wiod.org.

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publication
Criteria for effective zero-deforestation commitments

Zero-deforestation commitments are a type of voluntary sustainability initiative that companies adopt to signal their intention to reduce or eliminate deforestation associated with commodities that they produce, trade, and/or sell. Because each company defines its own zero-deforestation commitment goals and implementation mechanisms, commitment content varies widely. This creates challenges for the assessment of commitment implementation or effectiveness. Here, we develop criteria to assess the potential effectiveness of zero-deforestation commitments at reducing deforestation within a company supply chain, regionally, and globally. We apply these criteria to evaluate 52 zero-deforestation commitments made by companies identified by Forest 500 as having high deforestation risk. While our assessment indicates that existing commitments converge with several criteria for effectiveness, they fall short in a few key ways. First, they cover just a small share of the global market for deforestation-risk commodities, which means that their global impact is likely to be small. Second, biome-wide implementation is only achieved in the Brazilian Amazon. Outside this region, implementation occurs mainly through certification programs, which are not adopted by all producers and lack third-party near-real time deforestation monitoring. Additionally, around half of all commitments include zero-net deforestation targets and future implementation deadlines, both of which are design elements that may reduce effectiveness. Zero-net targets allow promises of future reforestation to compensate for current forest loss, while future implementation deadlines allow for preemptive clearing. To increase the likelihood that commitments will lead to reduced deforestation across all scales, more companies should adopt zero-gross deforestation targets with immediate implementation deadlines and clear sanction-based implementation mechanisms in biomes with high risk of forest to commodity conversion.

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publication
The continental divide? Economic exposure to Brexit in regions and countries on both sides of The Channel

In this paper we employ an extension of the World Input‐Output Database (WIOD) with regional detail for EU countries to study the degree to which EU regions and countries are exposed to negative trade‐related consequences of Brexit. We develop an index of this exposure, which incorporates all effects due to geographically fragmented production processes within the UK, the EU and beyond. Our findings demonstrate that UK regions are far more exposed than regions in other countries. Only regions in the Republic of Ireland face exposure levels similar to some UK regions, while the next most affected regions are in Germany, The Netherlands, Belgium and France. This imbalance may influence the outcomes of the negotiations between the UK and the EU.

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publication
Corporate investments in supply chain sustainability: Selecting instruments in the agri-food industry

Private investments to address environmental issues are perceived as a powerful engine of sustainability. For the agri-food sector, multiple instruments have been developed to green supply chains. Yet little is known about the underlying process and conditions under which green sourcing concerns lead to the adoption of specific sustainability instruments among agri-food companies. This study: i) offers a synthesis of the most commonly used instruments agri-food companies adopt to promote sustainability in their supply chains; ii) proposes an analytical framework to elucidate how those decisions are made, based on the competitive environment in which firms operate—with respect to location of their raw materials, technologies available to their suppliers, leverage over upstream suppliers, and end-markets’ characteristics; and iii) presents seven case-studies illustrating the decision-making process leading to the adoption of a specific instrument by a particular company. Companies that do not have sustainable technologies available to improve their environmental practices but operate in highly sensitive places are better off taking their operation somewhere else. But companies with available cleaner technologies, effective law enforcement and control over the supply chains, as well as a brand to protect, can capitalize on their environmental efforts by introducing strict standards, such as third-party certifications. Enforcement of social and environmental regulations at countries of origin is a key factor that deters companies form adopting very strict standards, even if they have a brand value to enhance. The multiplication of private labels and initiatives are, in most cases, not driven by a desire to disorient the consumer, but rather by a careful consideration of the complex conditions under which agri-food supply chains operate. With minor adaptations, the framework could be applied to other economic sectors that have environmental impacts, from mining and energy-generating industries, to apparel, and electronics.

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