Legally-binding deforestation target required, says industry taskforce

The UK government should use new global trade deals to create greener supply chains, according to a report.

The report, by the Global Resource Initiative (GRI) taskforce, said “unparalleled opportunities” will arise as the UK negotiates different global relationships and aims for domestic reforms in agriculture and food strategies.

“Agricultural and forestry supply chains are at the core of the transformation required... Commodity-driven forest loss and land conversion must be an urgent global priority,” the report said. 

The government has a critical role in supporting businesses and the finance sector to act by providing an “enabling environment”, including regulatory measures to ensure a level playing field, it added.

The taskforce recommended the government publishes a Strategic Sustainable Commodity Action Plan by autumn 2020 to set out measurable time-bound actions for government, businesses and the financial sector. 

To support these efforts, it said the government should introduce a “legally-binding target to end deforestation” within UK agriculture and forestry supply chains by 2030. 

“Whilst the case for businesses and government to invest in sustainable supply chains is clear and increasingly recognised, not all businesses have begun to make this investment,” the report said. 

“A legally-binding target for the UK would provide the necessary signal for a shift in behaviour, acting as a legislative ‘cliff edge’ to propel business, finance and government to make the necessary changes to purchasing and investment strategies within their organisations to a clear future deadline.”

The taskforce also said firms must also step up to work with supply chains partners to deliver on existing deforestation commitments. 

The agenda must extend “beyond the leading retailers, brands, traders and commodity processors to the broader market” including the food service sector, a significant user of commodity ingredients. 

The GRI taskforce – made up of firms including Cargill, McDonald’s and Tesco and NGOs such as WWF and Forest Coalition – was set up in 2019 to identify actions to drive more resilient and sustainable food systems that avoid deforestation and environmental degradation overseas.

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