Global Canopy calls on UK government to strengthen proposed deforestation law

7 Oct 2020

Global Canopy says proposed laws should apply to all deforestation and include the finance sector

Global Canopy has urged the UK government to go beyond illegality in its proposed legislation on due diligence to address the UK’s deforestation footprint overseas. In evidence submitted to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, we set out why the new law must also recognise legal deforestation as a problem.

And in an open letter to ministers signed by 21 NGOs, we called on the government to extend the proposal to include liability to financial institutions who, through their financing and investments, cause or contribute to deforestation.

Under the current regulations, financial institutions can profit from operations linked to deforestation and related human rights abuses without any fear of meaningful consequences.

Lowering standards for companies

The government’s proposed law would require companies to carry out due diligence to ensure there is no illegal deforestation in their supply chains. But it would do nothing to stop companies importing goods from areas where weak legislation means that forests are being legally cleared.

A review of forest laws by IUCN concluded that prohibiting only illegal deforestation would mean that 88 million hectares of forest could still be legally deforested in Brazil alone.

Many companies have already made commitments to end deforestation in their supply chains, with Forest 500 data showing that 81% of the biggest UK companies in forest-risk supply chains have policies in place that aim to remove deforestation from their supply chains.

Earlier this week, 21 companies including McDonald’s, Marks & Spencer and Mondelez called on the government to address “all forms of deforestation” through the new measures.

Helen Bellfield, Global Canopy’s policy director, commented:
“If the government is serious about addressing the UK’s overseas forest footprint, it must ensure that companies address all the risks of deforestation in their supply chains.”

Include the financial sector

Global Canopy is calling on the government to extend the legislation to the financial sector. Forest 500 assessments show that many financial institutions are currently failing to ensure their loans and investments are not financing deforestation.

Research by Global Witness has shown that UK banks and investors provided £5 billion in credit and investment to the biggest agribusiness companies linked to deforestation between 2013 and 2019.

By including finance, the government would create a level playing field for financial institutions, rewarding those that act responsibly and sending a clear message to companies globally about the issue.

Our full response to the UK consultation on due diligence is available here.

Photo: Pexels

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