Countries commit to supply chain transparency to protect forests

2 November 2021

More than two dozen countries have committed to increasing transparency in supply chains as part of efforts to eradicate materials linked to deforestation. 

Countries including the UK, US, Brazil and the EU have signed a new Forest, Agriculture and Commodity Trade (FACT) Roadmap for Action as part of COP26 negotiations being held in Glasgow.

The roadmap, launched by UK prime minister Boris Johnson and president Joko Widodo of Indonesia, commits countries to increase international collaboration to maintain forests and promote sustainable agriculture. 

The 28 countries said “traceability and transparency” within supply chains were “critical” to deforestation pledges.

They have agreed to assess existing transparency systems and identify data gaps preventing companies from establishing full traceability within supply chains. 

A set of guidelines will be developed to promote compliance with national laws with enhanced monitoring systems. 

UK environment minister Lord Zac Goldsmith and Indonesia's vice minister of environment and forestry Alue Dohong said: “At the heart of this statement is a recognition of the scale of the challenge before us, and the responsibility we have to ensure that essential trade in commodities does not contribute to deforestation, land degradation and unsustainable practices.” 

UK environment secretary George Eustice told BBC Radio 4 the new measures will mean countries “pay much greater attention to their supply chains and the sustainability of those supply chains”.

Meanwhile, over 100 leaders, accounting for more than 86% of the world’s forests, have committed to work together to halt and reverse forest loss and land degradation by 2030. 

They pledged £8.75bn between 2021-25 towards restoring degraded land, tackling wildfires which threatened forests and advancing the rights of indigenous local communities. 

A further £5bn of private sector funding has also been committed to end deforestation.

When asked about what made these pledges different to previous ones, Eustice said: “To make these pledges successful, you need to have the finance to back them up. And that's what's different this time.”

He continued: “That's a significant amount of money to support projects that will deliver the objective that over 100 countries have come together to support.”

Eustice also referred to the government’s Environment Bill, explaining the bill will introduce new due diligence requirements to prevent products linked to deforestation from entering UK supply chains, including soy and palm oil.

Over 20 firms including Unilever, McDonald’s and Tesco previously called on government to strengthen the bill to ensure suppliers to the UK disclosed information to establish transparency throughout the supply chain. 

Firms said they had been working to verify the origin of at-risk commodities, but said “many companies are unwilling or are unable to provide the details of their suppliers or the sourcing”.

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