Telecouplings, supply chain analysis and transparency

PhD fellow: Sahar Sajjad Malik

Earthworm Foundation


Commodity supply chains have a profound impact on both the environment and the people in and around operation but also in distant places. Harnessing the power of these business networks to create positive change is important – but it has not always been clear how best to do so. Certification and other voluntary mechanisms were initially tried, but fell short of transformative change. More recently, achieving transparency and traceability via pro-active engagement with industry players, and through that working towards continuous improvement in supply chain management, is seen as particularly promising. However, in a telecoupled world, limited approaches and evidence exist to capture the actual local as well as distant impacts, feedbacks and spill-overs of e.g. a zero deforestation commitment.

Against this background, this PhD research will, using the case of specific investments/purchasing in Oil palm in Asia Pacific with a focus on Indonesia and Malaysia:

  • Collate and analyze the available rich secondary data of TFT on the local impacts of palm oil production and other significant commodities i.e. Pulp and Paper on the local socio-ecological system (e.g. deforestation) and collect primary data on land use displacement effect in the surrounding areas.
  • Develop methodologies, data collection protocols and concrete tools to measure key distant impacts, feedbacks, and spill-over effects of the respective activities of oil palm companies throughout the entire oil palm supply chain. Use these to assess social and environmental impacts.
  • Through the full transparency of actors and impacts along the supply chain work towards the co-design of transformation to more sustainable outcomes in the specific landscape.
  • Use the outcomes of this assessment to create practical guidance for responsible development work along oil palm supply chains.

In doing so, the research will create approaches how to integrate local as well as distance impacts in oil palm production and other significant commodities in a transparent and traceable supply chain, enabling the initiation of actual sustainability transformations across the supply chain.

Principal Supervisors: Kaitlin Mara (The Forest Trust) and Andreas Heinimann (University of Bern, Centre for Development and Environment)


Sahar Sajjad Malik

The Forest Trust
Chemin de Chantavril 2, 1260 Nyon, Switzerland