Deforestation-free declarations lack accountability, says Rainforest Alliance

The recent surge in deforestation-free pledges is an exciting development, but needs definition, focus and accountability to turn the objective into reality.

Deforestation is a complex problem that entails many interlinked sustainability issues, the Rainforest Alliance paper says

Deforestation is a complex problem that entails many interlinked sustainability issues, the Rainforest Alliance paper says

That's the view being put forward by the Rainforest Alliance in a new position paper - 'Halting Deforestation and Achieving Sustainability' - published today (14 April).

The past few months have seen a selection of individual business pledges on deforestation from the likes of Unilever, Yum Brands and Dunkin' Donuts; as well as collective deforestation commitments such as the New York Declaration on Forests.

But the not-for-profit Rainforest Alliance argues that these promises of 'deforestation-free' must deliver lasting benefits for forests, people and the planet.

"The deforestation-free trend is valuable and exciting," said Rainforest Alliance president Tensie Whelan. "But we don't yet have an agreed framework for turning this important objective into reality. "Deforestation-free is not the same as no trees being cut, though consumers might interpret it that way. A great tagline doesn't equal a great strategy for change."

Five steps

The position paper points out that tackling deforestation is a complex problem that entails many interlinked sustainability issues such as non-forest ecosystems, water resources, and community and worker rights. Many deforestation-free pledges currently lack the public accountability that independent standards and third-party verification offer, the paper argues.

The Alliance has identified five 'pillars of success' to build the bridge from deforestation-free declarations to long-term gains. These are: -

- Clarifying definitions of deforestation-free that are rigorous yet realistic
- Addressing other critical risks and impacts of commodity production
- Increasing the productivity and efficiency of existing croplands
- Effectively governing forests and other natural resources
- Restoring degraded lands to productivity and health


The paper concludes with four key action areas for the private sector and governments. These are:

- Send a consistent message that the goal is sustainability, not just halting deforestation
- Be accountable and transparent
- Engage producers as allies
- Increase public and private sector collaboration

"Defining, implementing and evaluating deforestation-free pledges is essential so that society can judge whether companies and governments are actually slowing deforestation," added Whelan.


Luke Nicholls



Waste & resource management
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