- Just 31 companies adopted new deforestation policies or strengthened existing policies in the past year, though two titans of their respective industries, McDonalds and Bunge, did commit to zero net deforestation across all of their commodities supply chains.
- Just 1 percent of the financial institutions among the Global Canopy Programme's "Forest 500" have pledged to eliminate deforestation from their lending portfolios.
- Financial institutions and governments play a vital role in creating the right market conditions to drive a transition away from commodities that put forests at risk.
There have been a lot of high-profile pledges to halt deforestation from both the public and private sector lately, but new research shows just how far we still are from global consensus around efforts to keep forests standing once and for all.
It’s now been over a year since the New York Declaration on Forests was signed by leaders from a number of governments, indigenous communities, multinational corporations and civil society groups who agreed to cut natural forest loss in half by 2020. That’s also the year that the 400 companies that comprise the Consumer Goods Forum pledged to achieve net zero deforestation.
Yet, despite the quickly approaching 2020 deadline, very few key players have made new commitments or strengthened existing policies to keep deforestation for commodities like soy, palm oil, beef, leather, timber and pulp and paper out of their supply chains, according to the latest Forest 500 report from UK-based think tank Global Canopy Programme (GCP).
The Forest 500 is an index created by GCP that includes many of the most influential global entities that play a role in driving deforestation around the world, from companies with links to forest destruction in their supply chains to the financial institutions that do business with them and the governing bodies of critical forest jurisdictions.
In other words, they are the crucial link between consumers the world over and the destruction of what’s left of Earth’s natural forests.
“Together, these 500 powerbrokers control the complex supply chains of key ‘forest risk commodities’ that are found in over 50% of packaged products in supermarkets,” Andrew Mitchell, founder and executive director of GCP, said in a statement. “Through these commodities, we are all part of a hidden deforestation economy – from our toothpaste, to our pensions.”
The corporate sector made marginal improvements since GCP issued its 2014 analysis, per the new report. Just 31 companies improved their ranking, though two titans of their respective industries, McDonalds and Bunge, did commit to zero net deforestation across all of their commodities supply chains.
Many companies have yet to make any public commitments to eliminate forest risk commodities from their business operations, however. A mere 8 percent of the 250 companies included in the Forest 500 have adopted zero deforestation or zero net deforestation commitments (“zero net” deforestation strategies allow for some logging, as long as it’s sustainably done and balanced with rehabilitation of previously cut forests) that apply to all of their commodity supply chains, the report says, while 12 percent of companies have no policies whatsoever.
An earlier analysis by researchers at GCP found that corporate commitments to eliminate deforestation in their supply chains aren’t the solution in and of themselves, and that financial institutions and governments play a vital role in creating the right market conditions to drive a transition away from commodities that put forests at risk.
BNP Paribas became the first Forest 500 investor to make a zero net deforestation commitment in its agricultural lending portfolio, joining HSBC at the top of the ranks. Less than 1 percent of investors have adopted deforestation policies applicable to all of the supply chains in their entire investment portfolios, the GCP found.
None of the Forest 500 jurisdictions made significant improvements to forest policies at either the national or state-level in the past year.
Signatories to the New York Declaration on Forests, unsurprisingly, scored three times higher than non-signatories in the Forest 500 rankings.
Tom Bregman, project manager of the Forest 500, said in a statement that he hopes that the findings of his team’s 2015 analysis will prove a valuable tool not only to call out the bad actors who have yet to recognize their role in stopping deforestation, but to help leaders like the signatories to the New York Declaration in demonstrating the incentives to change.
“In the coming months, the Forest 500 is going to be working with others, together we hope to create a race to the top,” he said.