Brands 'turning a blind eye' to deforestation

12 February 2020

Some of the world’s most famous brands including Amazon, Tyson foods and Samsonite International are ignoring deforestation caused by demand for the commodities they consume, according to a report. 

The latest annual Forest 500 report said six key commodities have been largely responsible for an area of tropical forest greater than the size of the Netherlands being cleared every year between 2014 and 2018.

Yet nearly half of the leading companies using these commodities – palm oil, soy, beef, leather, timber and pulp and paper – have made no public commitment to end deforestation. 

Retailers singled out in the report include Amazon, Dutch supermarket chain SPAR, and CK Hutchison, a Hong Kong conglomerate whose international store brands include Superdrug and Savers.

Fashion Brands such as UK-based Capri Holdings, whose brands include Versace, Jimmy Choo and Michael Kors, and US-based TJX Companies, owner of TK Maxx, have also been criticised.

Other companies to come under fire include Tyson Foods, the largest US food company, and France’s Groupe Lactalis, the world’s number one cheese manufacturer; as well as the Japanese manufacturers of Kikkoman soy sauce.

The world’s largest furniture manufacturer, US-based Ashley Furniture, and travel luggage company Samsonite International, based in Hong Kong, have also been accused of failing to take deforestation seriously.

Sarah Rogerson, who wrote the report, said: “Many of the world’s best-known brands are complicit in the destruction of tropical forests, which undermines our ability to combat global climate change. 

“They are turning a blind eye to deforestation caused by demand for the commodities they use and failing to publicly recognise their responsibility to act.”

Deforestation made global headlines in 2019 when the Amazon rainforest was devastated by fires that were blamed largely on the actions of loggers and farmers.

The 2019 Forest 500 report aims to hold to account the 350 companies that produce, trade, use or sell the largest amounts of the six key commodities, as well as their 150 biggest financiers.

The strength of their commitment to end deforestation is based on publicly available information, according to the report.

Some 140 companies (40% of the total) and 102 financial institutions (68%), have made no public commitments to prevent deforestation in their supply chains or in the companies they finance.

Only 86 companies (25%) and 28 financial institutions (19%) have made thorough deforestation commitments.

“Most of the financial institutions that fund the Forest 500 companies do not appear to recognise the risk that their investments may drive deforestation and so contribute to climate change,” said the report.

“Those which have made no public commitment on deforestation include four of the world’s five biggest asset managers: BlackRock, Vanguard, State Street and Fidelity Investments.”

Forest 500 also hit out at companies that are rolling back their pledges to end deforestation.

Four of the 157 companies that made strict deforestation pledges in 2018 have now dropped their commitment completely, while 18 have dropped a deadline to do so by 2020.

Over the last year 81 companies have removed or weakened commitments or reduced reporting on these commitments, including Burger King owner Restaurant Brands International.

And 100 companies with deforestation commitments do not report on implementation.

These include sportswear company Nike and Yum! Brands, which owns KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell, Carrefour, and food manufacturer General Mills, whose brands include Häagen-Dazs ice cream.

As a result it is difficult for consumers to monitor their efforts in this field and know if they are living up to commitments, said the report.

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