Businesses risk falling short on commitments to end deforestation

Many large corporations are at risk of failing to meet pledges to reduce their impact on tropical deforestation according to environmental group Global Canopy.

An assessment of the 350 most influential companies in forest-risk commodity supply chains (covering palm oil, soy, cattle, timber and pulp and paper), found that 40% of companies did not have any commitments in place to address deforestation.

Even top-scoring companies in the Forest 500 assessment, such as Unilever, Mars, Marks & Spencer and Ikea, lost points because although they have made strong commitments, they are not consistently reporting strong implementation across all of their supply chains. Even though 164/350 companies assessed have set themselves a time-bound target for eliminating deforestation from their supply chains, just 50 of the 350 companies showed evidence of all of their commitments being implemented.

As a result, the 2020 deadline to eliminate deforestation from agricultural commodity supply chains will not be met. Sarah Rogerson, a researcher in Global Canopy’s supply chain programme, said: “The most powerful companies in forest-risk supply chains do not appear to be implementing the commitments they have set to meet global deforestation targets. With the 2020 deadline looming, it is crucial that companies raise their ambition and address the stark gap between the promises they have made and activities on the ground.”

The Forest 500 2018 assessment found that 57% of the 350 companies assessed this year had a commitment to address deforestation in their supply chains for at least one of the four commodities assessed (palm oil, soy, cattle, and timber/pulp and paper). Companies sourcing palm oil were once again found to be most likely to have a commitment in 2018, while just 16% of companies sourcing beef and other cattle products from tropical forest countries had a deforestation commitment in place.

Just under a third of the companies that have made commitments (29%) do not appear to be taking any action to implement those commitments. Rogerson added: “Our global demand for commodities such as palm oil, soy, beef and paper packaging is driving forest loss, exacerbating climate change and putting biodiversity at risk. Companies have the power to stop this forest loss by engaging with suppliers and insisting that supplies are deforestation-free. While it is great to see that more than half of the companies have commitments, deforestation is increasing in some parts of the world and we need companies to implement their commitments on the ground.”

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