Achieving 2020: how can the private sector meet global goals of eliminating commodity-driven deforestation?

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Industrial agricultural production causes nearly three-quarters of tropical deforestation[1]and today global tree cover loss continues to rise[2]. Public and private sector commitments to address deforestation, including the New York Declaration on Forests (NYDF)[3], Sustainable Development Goal 15[4], and the Consumer Goods Forum (CGF)[5]commitment have set a 2020 deadline for tackling deforestation. The Forest 500 was launched in 2014 to annually assess the most influential powerbrokers on their policies and commitments towards these goals.

The 2017 Forest 500 assessment marks the half-way point to those 2020 goals. But this year’s ranking shows that the private sector is not on target, and if current trends continue the 2020 goals will not be met.

Greater progress is needed across all forest risk commodity supply chains to introduce and implement policies to ensure supply chains do not contribute to tropical deforestation. Stakeholders should also continue to work towards the more ambitious global targets of ending forest loss entirely[6] and increasing forest area, by 2030[7]. While many leading companies are working to eliminate deforestation in their supply chains, more action needs to be taken by a broader set of companies as well as financial institutions to prevent irreversible damage to the environment.

Key findings:

At the current rate, the companies and financial institutions with the greatest influence on forests will fail to adopt adequate policies, or implement these policies by 2020. As a result, global goals of zero commodity-driven deforestation by 2020 will be missedExisting commitments vary across the key forest risk commodities; those covering timber and palm oil are the most common and the strongest, with policies on both cattle and soy lagging behind. Nevertheless, no sector is currently on track to achieve deforestation-free supply chains by 2020.

Despite cattle production being the largest driver of tropical deforestation globally, the Forest 500 powerbrokers are not acting on cattle-driven deforestation in their supply chains. Only 17% of cattle companies assessed in the Forest 500 have a policy addressing the protection of forests for cattle production or procurement. Moreover, companies are abandoning some of the few commitments in this sector: since 2014 four Forest 500 companies have dropped a forest policy for cattle products.

Company policies on soy are lagging behind palm oil and timber, and tend to be weaker in scope. Almost 60% of company forest policies for soy are geographically limited, with the majority only covering the Amazon. Existing policies need to be strengthened to cover all relevant geographies.

While financial institutions are continuing to adopt deforestation policies, the overall proportion of financial powerbrokers with commitments remains low. Just over 30% of the investors and lenders assessed in the Forest 500 have either a palm oil or timber specific lending or investment policy. Even fewer have policies for companies in the cattle or soy supply chains, (9% and 11% respectively).

Companies and financial institutions need to tackle deforestation in all of their operations. Less than one quarter of companies and financial institutions have a policy for all relevant forest risk commodities. While commodity-specific policies are important, they should complement and contribute to an overarching deforestation policy. Overarching policies ensure that all risks are acted on, and all aspects of supply chains and portfolios are included.

[1] See Lawson, S., 2014. Consumer Goods and Deforestation: An Analysis of the Extent and Nature of Illegality in Forest Conversion for Agriculture and Timber Plantations. Available from: http://www.forest-trends.org/documents/files/doc_4718.pdf

[2] Global tree cover loss rose by 50% in 2016. See http://blog.globalforestwatch.org/data/global-tree-cover-loss-rose-51-pe...

[3] Signatories to the New York Declaration on Forests commit to halve the rate of global forest loss and eliminate deforestation from the production of agricultural commodities by 2020. See http://www.un.org/climatechange/summit/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2014/0...

[4] See http://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/biodiversity/

[5] The commitment was made in 2010 on behalf of the 400 CGF members to achieve zero net deforestation by 2020. See www.theconsumergoodsforum.com/sustainability-strategic-focus/sustainabil....

[6] NYDF goal 1, see footnote 3.

[7] The United Nation’s Strategic Plan for Forests. See http://www.un.org/esa/forests/documents/un-strategic-plan-for-forests-20...

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