Mapping the Downstream

The downstream part of the investment chain is where buyers can be found. Buyers purchase the outputs from the project. A buyer that purchases a large amount of the product will be more important for advocacy than a smaller buyer. There may be one or several buyers. Some may be multinational companies, others may be small, national companies. Governments can also be buyers. In some cases, it might be possible to identify these actors from the ground. If not, these online resources can help.


You should try to map the following actors, noting the results on Investment Chain Worksheet 1.

1) Trading companies, which buy and sell large amounts of a product in global markets;

2) Processors or manufacturers, which buy the product to include as a component or ingredient in another product;

3) Retailers, which sells the product to the end user or consumer.

4) Distributors, such as power companies that transmit electricity.


The major buyers that purchase a large amount of product and big companies with visible, well-known brands are the most important buyers for advocacy purposes, so it makes sense to focus on identifying them. Governments that buy the product might also be important for advocacy.

Where to Look: Downstream Information Resources

Identifying downstream actors can be difficult, as few companies publicly disclose their supply chains – how and where they source the raw materials for their products. With that said, databases that track imports and exports can be a good source of downstream information, and general internet searches can also turn up leads. Knowing these actors further downstream offers additional options for your advocacy strategy.

As you research downstream actors, keep a detailed record of all sources, either by listing them in your Investment Chain Worksheet 1 or on an Excel spreadsheet. Be sure to note the source, date accessed, author and date of publication, as you might want to return to these at a later stage in the research.

If you find a useful document online, remember save it. Sometimes web pages can be deleted or changed. You can either take a screenshot of the page or save the page to your computer’s hard drive. This guide explains how to do both.

These online sources can help you find information on downstream actors:

  • Sources on the ground: It might be worth asking a business representative who is physically present at the project if they know who will buy the product. If there are only one or two major buyers, it’s possible that this person may know who they are and be willing to tell you.
  • Company websites: The website of a business or its parent company might mention major buyers of its product, especially in media announcements. For example, as part of Coca-Cola’s commitment to end land rights violations within its supply chain, the soft-drink maker has disclosed some of its sugar suppliers on its website. If you are able to identify a major trader or processor that buys product from your project, that company’s website might provide information on who its customers are. For instance, the website of the sugar producer Tate undefined Lyle discloses retailers that carry its products.
  • Import and export databases: Upon request, the United States discloses data on imports crossing its borders. Free websites such as Port Examiner collect some of this data and compile it into searchable databases with details including supplier, importer and product description. Subscription-only websites such as Import Genius and Panjiva offer more exhaustive U.S. import data, but for a fee. The European Union discloses imports to member countries by product type and the relevant import regime or treaty, but the data is not detailed and the database can be difficult to use.
  • Internet search: Try a general Google search using keywords such as the business or parent company name, the product it makes, and words like sell, buy, supplier, and purchase. You might find a reference to a deal or potential deal between the business/parent company and a major buyer.Another option is to search for the largest global companies that buy the particular product being made by the business. For example, you might search for bauxite, rubber or tungsten and add search terms such as global buyer, trading companies or processor. You can also try searches like top 10 sugar companies. You can then search the websites and annual reports of some of the biggest companies to see if they list their suppliers.You could also use Google to search the names of each of the largest companies in the industry and the name of the business or parent company to see if you get any results.
  • OpenCorporates: Once again, this website might be a useful source of information for companies in the downstream part of your investment chain.