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Consumer goods industry announces goal of zero deforestation in Cancun

While governments continue to stall on action to cut greenhouse gas emissions worldwide, global corporations are promising big changes to tackle their responsibilities. The Board of Consumer Goods Forum (BCGF) has approved a resolution to achieve net zero deforestation by 2020 in products such as palm oil, soy, beef, and paper. Announced yesterday at the UN Climate Summit in Cancun, the BCGF has stated the goal will be met both by individual actions within companies and collective action, including partnerships with NGOs, development banks, and governments. With such giants as Walmart, Unilever, Carrefour, and General Mills, BCGF is made up of four hundred global consumer goods manufacturers and retailers totaling over $2.8 trillion in revenue.

“We are in Cancun to lend our support to this monumental but essential task of creating solutions that lead to a low-carbon world,” said Muhtar Kent, CEO of Coca-Cola and co-chair of the BCGF. “The initiatives that our industry announced today are good examples of the kind of bold and positive action that will be needed to move the needle in combating climate change.”

The deforestation resolution states that the BCGF will work with stakeholders to fund “mechanisms and other practical schemes that will incentivise and assist forested countries to conserve their natural assets and enable them to achieve the goal of zero net deforestation, whilst at the same time meeting their goals for economic development.”

Some companies, such as Walmart, have been working on their own to create sustainable sourcing of problematic commodities such as beef and palm oil. The world’s biggest retailer has recently announced a goal to only source sustainable beef and palm oil for its in house-brands by 2015 after Walmart-Brazil successfully developed a tracing mechanism on its beef to make certain it was not contributing to Amazon deforestation. However, bringing hundreds of global companies on board to halt deforestation could be a game changer according to Jason Clay, senior vice president of markets with conservation organization, WWF.

“The scale, geographical presence and purchasing power of the CGF companies could transform these commodity markets and help put an end to tropical deforestation in countries like Brazil and Indonesia.”

While deforestation in end of the twentieth century was largely driven by slash-and-burn farming of the agrarian poor, current forest lost is driven mostly by large corporations seeking commodities in the developing world to meet voracious consumption worldwide. For example, cattle ranching for beef accounts for 65-70% of current Amazon deforestation, while recent satellite analysis shows that half of the expansion of palm oil in Southeast Asia has come at the expense of tropical rainforests since 1990.

The BCGF also announced it will work to phase out greenhouse gas emitting HCFs in refrigeration by 2015. Although they currently represent a small percentage of total greenhouse gas emissions, HFCs are thousands of times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide and if not dealt with could begin a significant contributor to an increasingly warming world.

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