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Deforestation Detectives No More: CRR Halts Operations Due to Funding


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In a significant development for the environmental accountability landscape, Chain Reaction Research (CRR), a renowned research organization focusing on deforestation-risk commodities like palm oil, soy, and beef, has officially closed its doors after a decade of impactful operations.

This closure is attributed to a funding shortfall, marking the end of an era for a think tank that has been instrumental in translating sustainability risks into business risks.


The Decade-Long Legacy:


Established in 2013, CRR gained industry recognition for its in-depth investigative reports, specifically exploring the tropical deforestation risk associated with commodities. Over the years, the organization produced a staggering 375 articles, providing invaluable data that supported shareholder resolutions targeting major players in the consumer goods industry, such as Unilever, Tyson Foods, and Archer-Daniels-Midland.


CRR’s Unique Approach:


What set CRR apart was its ability to convert environmental concerns into tangible business risks. One notable example was the analysis of the cost to consumer goods companies of eliminating deforestation from their supply chains, shedding light on the financial implications of sustainable practices. Additionally, CRR explored the reputational risks faced by firms like Procter & Gamble in relation to deforestation, underlining the interconnectedness of environmental responsibility and corporate image.


Shifts in the Deforestation Landscape:


The decision to close CRR comes as a response to changing dynamics in the deforestation landscape. Chris Wiggs, program director for AidEnvironment, one of CRR’s non-profit partners, emphasized that the focus of CRR’s work was no longer aligned with the most pressing deforestation risks. The palm oil sector, in particular, has witnessed transformative changes, with No Deforestation, No Peatlands, No Exploitation (NDPE) policies gaining traction and a significant decline in deforestation for oil palm in Indonesia.


Emerging Deforestation Concerns:


While progress has been made in the last decade, CRR’s final review highlighted emerging areas of concern. Key palm oil growth regions in Africa and Latin America were identified as potential “leakage markets,” signifying regions where deforestation risks may be shifting. The review also pointed out the lag in NDPE implementation in soy and beef in Latin America compared to Southeast Asia, raising alarms about potential setbacks in zero-deforestation targets.


The Evolving Landscape of Environmental Accountability:


CRR’s closure signifies a broader shift in strategies employed by donors and non-profit organizations to hold deforestation-risk companies accountable. As CRR temporarily pauses activities in its pursuit of further funding, it prompts a reflection on the evolving dynamics of environmental advocacy. The increased awareness among companies and financiers regarding the value of deforestation risk, coupled with mounting pressure from regulatory bodies like the European Union, suggests a growing trend toward transparency and responsibility in the corporate sector.


Unfinished Business: Social Issues and Biofuel Impacts:


Despite a decade of progress, CRR’s final report identified areas that warrant continued attention. A lack of cross-commodity NDPE policies and blind spots in corporate zero-deforestation policies pose challenges, allowing some household brands to source palm oil from entities engaged in environmentally harmful practices. Additionally, the report emphasized the need to address social issues and exploitation in palm oil supply chains, alongside potential unintended negative impacts on climate and livelihoods arising from the transition to biofuels.


Partnerships and Funding:


CRR’s impactful journey was made possible through collaborations with non-profits such as Green Century, Climate Advisers, and Profundo. Funders, including the Packard Foundation, Laudes Foundation, and the Dutch Fund for Climate and Development, played a crucial role in supporting CRR’s endeavors, underlining the collaborative nature of the fight against deforestation.




The closure of Chain Reaction Research marks the end of an era in environmental advocacy, leaving behind a legacy of impactful research and a decade-long commitment to uncovering and addressing deforestation risks. As the organization seeks additional funding to potentially resume its activities, the environmental landscape continues to evolve, emphasizing the need for adaptive strategies and collaborative efforts in the pursuit of a sustainable future.


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