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’ op–
portunity 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 Ithat 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 path.