Deforestation pledges gain momentum

5 April 2017

Corporate commitments towards reducing deforestation are becoming stronger, according to a report.

The latest annual Supply Change report by Forest Trends, a not-for-profit conservation organisation, looked at 447 companies that have made 760 commitments to curb forest destruction in supply chains linked to the “big four” agricultural commodities of palm, soy, timber and pulp, and cattle.

These commodities underpin most consumer goods, from food to clothing, and are responsible for over a third of tropical deforestation, according to the report.

However, there is a risk that initial enthusiasm by companies to meet deforestation supply chain goals will tail off when the full challenge of the task becomes apparent, the report said.

“As companies move to address [stakeholder] demands – and the ever-growing threats to their supply chains, including climate change – we’re learning that meeting these goals is easier said than done,” said Stephen Donofrio, senior adviser for Supply Change.

“It requires a reformulation of an entire complex system – from suppliers to retailers, among many other non-corporate actors.”

Ensuring companies provide transparent information about their commitments and their progress towards meeting them ensures that these goals will not fall into neglect, especially as deforestation commitments approach their deadlines.

“Fortunately, the report indicates that transparency around these commitments is beginning to pick up steam,” continued the report.

It said that progress information was now publicly available for 51% of commitments that have been tracked by Supply Change over the past two years.

This was a dramatic improvement on the 2016 report, which found only one in three (36%) commitments were backed by transparent progress.

Commitments on palm and timber and pulp continue to outdo those on soy and cattle because there are more established certification programmes and scrutiny around palm oil-driven deforestation.

The report described lower commitments for soy and cattle as “troubling given their outsized contribution to tropical forest loss”.

Among a control group of 347 companies whose commitments Supply Change has tracked for over a year, 57% more of their pledges were accompanied by transparent reporting in 2017 than in 2016.

Companies operating further up the supply chain, such as retailers, had fewer deforestation commitments than producers, processors, traders and manufacturers.

“Commitments that aren’t accompanied by progress reporting run the risk of becoming dormant,” said the report.

And one in five commitments is already past its target date or never had a target date in the first place.

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