A forest positive planet is vital to combatting the climate crisis – and only a collective effort will work

The world’s forests are in crisis. Globally, we’re losing an area of natural forest the size of London each week – with devastating consequences. At COP26, world leaders promised to end deforestation by 2030. One year on as COP27 takes place, the destruction of forests is falling – but not fast enough. We need a faster collective push to protect our forests, which are crucial to maintaining life on Earth.

Forests are vital for many communities globally. They are havens of biodiversity. And they are our allies in fighting the climate emergency; we cannot achieve a climate-positive future without a forest-positive future. This may sound obvious, but is worth emphasising, again and again. The future of our planet depends on it.

Businesses have a huge role to play in protecting forests, given their impact on supply chain and the policy advocacy they can drive. At The Consumer Goods Forum, we know it is critical that businesses are judged on the progress they’re making while being honest about the challenges they face and the complexity of the problem.

The 21 members of our Forest Positive Coalition – including Mars, Tesco, Carrefour and Mondelēz – are collaborating to remove deforestation, forest degradation and conversion from palm oil, soy, paper, pulp, and fibre-based packaging, and beef supply chains.

As the world’s leading initiative of consumer goods companies taking collective action to end deforestation, with a combined US$2 trillion market value, we must show leadership while remaining open about the scale of the challenge. We take stock of what is working, what is not, and where we must make faster changes.

One of the most crucial insights is the importance of transparency. Businesses will not be successful in driving transformative change without being held accountable. Consequently, all our Coalition members report on KPIs regularly and publicly for each commodity that is material to their business in our Annual Reports. Transparency enables the industry to identify where the issues exist, particularly where they are complicated or deeply rooted, and work together to address them.

We are seeing first-hand the power of collaboration both between members and with local stakeholders. For example, Tesco has joined fellow Coalition member Sainsbury’s, as well as Waitrose, to collectively invest USD$11 million in a new system of financial incentives for farmers in Brazil who commit to practicing deforestation and conversion free soy cultivation. This is an example of our Coalition’s Landscape Ambition in action – supporting local initiatives that are countering deforestation and conversion and driving climate, people, and nature positive outcomes.

However, no single business, nor our Coalition, can solve this problem single-handedly. It is vital that we all work together, share knowledge, ask for help and help others where we can, to drive meaningful change. Our members are working closely with their traders and suppliers to ensure that all the products they offer are forest positive too.

But even if all the members of our Coalition achieved deforestation-free supply chains, the devastating practice would continue due to global demand elsewhere. Everyone, from businesses to governments to the financial sector, to NGOs, forest farmers and communities, has a role to play.

While many businesses and governments think tackling deforestation is all about new technologies or approaches, there are already incredible organisations working on the ground to tackle these issues. By working with and investing in these organisations, faster progress can be made. Addressing deforestation must be carried out in a way that protects not just natural habitats and biodiversity, but also indigenous peoples. It is essential to partner with local initiatives working directly on-the-ground in the environments and communities most impacted by deforestation.

As we race towards the planet’s last chance to halt runaway climate change, time is against us. This must act as a catalyst for far greater cooperation to end deforestation. COP27 began with the stark warning from the UN secretary general that we are on the “highway to climate hell”. We don’t have a moment to lose in fighting deforestation.

While the scale of the challenge we face is huge, it is also shared, and so our approaches must be shared. Collaboration, coordination, and open conversation is the only way we can ensure a forest positive planet.

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