TNRC NRM Supply Chain Corruption

Image representing TNRC's four focus areas: wildlife, fisheries, forests, and finance

Targeting Natural Resource Corruption

Harnessing knowledge, generating evidence, and supporting innovative policy and practice for more effective anti-corruption programming

A Guide to Identifying Corruption Risks Along
Natural Resource Supply Chains

Why identify corruption risks along natural resource supply chains?

Reducing the threats that corruption poses to conservation and natural resource management objectives involves reducing opportunities for corrupt actions, increasing the likelihood of detecting them, and strengthening accountability when they are detected. To accomplish this, a first necessary step is understanding the range of corruption risks in a natural resource sector. This guide provides a simple, easy-to-follow overview of where corruption risks are likely in the supply chains for fish, forests, and wildlife.

Starting with the risk areas outlined in this guide, conservation and natural resource management practitioners can use tools like sectoral or institutional risk assessments or political economy analyses to identify gaps in legal and institutional frameworks and practices, as well as the social and political factors that drive and sustain corruption. With this knowledge, natural resource management and conservation efforts can integrate program elements or reform agendas to address the problems that are most critical, or those that seem to be most amenable to change.

While there is no single answer to the question "what works?", experience shows that countering corruption requires interdependent approaches, and that a range of contextual factors will affect their feasibility. The three “journeys” outlined here can help practitioners to “connect the corruption dots” in their own contexts and design better-informed responses. While these basic guides do not provide a comprehensive map of all opportunities for corruption along the many species and commodity-specific supply chains within each sector, they are a useful starting place for building out more extensive risk analyses and responses.

What does corruption in natural resource sectors look like?

Corruption involves the abuse of entrusted power for private gain. Corrupt practices can take many forms. A guide like this can help practitioners identify those that are obviously connected to conservation and natural resource management outcomes, but also those that are less obvious. Familiar types are bribery for information on movements of animals or patrols, obtaining fishing, logging or hunting permits, falsifying export permits or shipping documents, avoiding inspections or seizures, or dropping charges. Less obvious forms might include favors to policy makers for limiting environmental regulations, embezzlement of funds that are intended to improve environmental management and conservation, or deals with banks to facilitate laundering the proceeds of corrupt actions. Corruption in nominally unrelated areas, such as infrastructure, may also have significant impact on the natural world. Payoffs to political parties for road contracts, for example, might also result in opening wild places to exploitation—indeed, that might be their intended purpose.

Finally, while corruption enables environmental abuses, it’s important to understand that not every illegal or undesirable act is corruption. Seizing goods at a port, for example, is an anti-crime measure, but in itself does not necessarily address corruption. Unless investigations look for and address the corruption that enabled the shipment’s initial procurement and transit, for example, it may be just as easy for the next one to follow the same steps into the supply chain. The frequent involvement of organized crime in illegal logging, fishing, and wildlife trade also causes confusion between corruption and other crimes. While organized crime may be involved in corruption, and this may facilitate their activities, responses to reduce criminality are not always the same as those to reduce corruption. Mapping out the two, and being clear about how corruption facilitates crime, is essential for effectively responding to both problems.


Image attribution: © / Jen Guyton / WWF; © Brian J. Skerry / National Geographic Stock / WWF; © Georgina Goodwin / Shoot The Earth / WWF-UK; © Hkun Lat / WWF-Aus