Just 14% of firms have made proper sustainability pledges, says WWF

14 July 2016

A mere handful of leading consumer goods companies and retailers have taken meaningful steps to sustainably source soft commodities such as paper or soy, a report claims.

A study by WWF found only 14% of consumer goods companies had made measurable time-bound commitments to sustainably source palm oil, paper, soy, sugarcane or farmed fish according to standards recommended by WWF.

Slow Road to Sustainability analysed 256 consumer goods companies representing combined annual sales of more than $3.5tn globally, including Kimberly-Clark, Waitrose, Unilever, Kao Corporation and Royal Ahold.

All were members of the Consumer Goods Forum (CGF), the trade body representing consumer goods companies.

Only 22 of the companies, or 9%, have made measurable and time-bound commitments to source all or the majority of the commodities needed for their business according to other standards WWF considered credible.

In many cases commitments were imprecise, leading to questions of transparency.

Only 42% of the companies publish sustainability information in their annual report or a separate sustainability report.

“Sourcing credibly certified commodities is an essential first step for companies to implement a sustainable sourcing strategy, ensuring that they have been produced sustainably and also that social issues have been addressed,” said Stephen Watson, head of corporate engagement at WWF.

WWF has urged members and non-members of the CGF to commit publicly to source only credibly certified commodities by 2020.

It also wants companies to publish quantified, time-bound action plans detailing how they will achieve their commitments.

It called for the CGF board to agree that all of its members will publish an annual sustainability report by 2018 at the latest, using Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) guidelines. 

The CGF has been addressing the sustainability of soft commodities since it was founded. In 2010 it passed a high profile resolution pledging to help member companies achieve zero net deforestation by 2020 through the responsible sourcing of key commodities – soy, palm oil, paper and pulp and beef.

It has published guidelines to assist members with the sustainable sourcing of palm oil, soy, pulp and paper. 

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