Supply chain sustainability has become a key issue for multinational corporations (MNCs). Hundreds of MNCs in agri-commodity sectors have recently committed to eliminate deforestation from their supply chains. In this article, we examine the power of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) participating in two initiatives that support the implementation of such commitments: the Accountability Framework initiative (AFi) and Transparency for Sustainable Economies (Trase). Drawing on document and literature research, participant observation as well as semi-structured interviews, we find that these NGOs exercise power with
MNCs, in particular in terms of raising awareness and changing corporate self-perceptions. At the same time, though, there is a bias towards representing the positions and interests of materially strong actors in global supply chains. In doing so, NGOs risk reinforcing MNCs’ power over
more marginalized actors. In this light, we argue that initiatives such as AFi and Trase can only be a first step towards a new economic system that respects ecological limits and delivers social justice. In order to shape transformative change, NGOs need to more actively push discussions about equitable distribution, emancipation and justice in natural resource governance.
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