Business giants including Tesco urge ministers to end supply chain deforestation by 2030

Between 1990 and 2016

The call to action is being made by the Global Resources Initiative (GRI) taskforce, in a new recommendations report sent to Ministers on Monday evening (30 March).

Businesses including Cargill, Tesco, McDonald’s and Legal & General; NGOs including WWF and the Forest Coalition; and the UK’s Green Finance Institute, are among the organisations to have contributed to the report.

The report begins by highlighting the importance of forest conservation to not only nature and biodiversity, but to meeting climate targets and achieving the economic social sustainability measures set out by the UN in its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). On the latter, it highlights the fact that 1.6 billion people globally depend on forest systems for their livelihood. On climate change, it reiterates the UN’s assertation that forests could account for 30% of the solutions need to mitigate climate change.

It then sets out a string of recommendations on how Ministers should alter forest-related policy in both in line with the UK Government’s existing environmental commitments, including its 2050 net-zero target, and in a way which will position the nation and its businesses as a global leader.

The legally binding target for eliminating deforestation in agriculture and forest product supply chains should apply both domestically and internationally, the report states, with 2030 being the absolute latest deadline. After this target is implemented, it adds, it should be extended to other supply chains as soon as possible.

In order to support businesses, finance and other stakeholders to comply with this target, the GRI Taskforce is calling for the publication of a “strategic sustainable commodity action plan” by this autumn – a document which should map out key actions and timelines.

In the longer term, mandatory due diligence obligations should be placed on businesses and investors, mandating them to report transparently and supporting them to engage with each other in a pre-competitive manner.

The GRI Taskforce’s report was sent to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra); the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and the Department for International Development (DFID).

An ideal stage

The report goes on to argue that the UK’s position as joint COP26 host presents a “unique opportunity” to place nature-based solutions at the centre of efforts to achieve the Paris Agreement and to convene international discussions and agreements on deforestation and broader sustainable supply chain issues.

Any new “strategic sustainable commodity plan” should be published ahead of the summit, with this in mind, the report urges.

At the summit itself, the GRI Taskforce is calling for the UK to convene a global call to action and to set up talks which enable the creation of “long-term multilateral partnerships for collective action between producer and consumer governments, companies, finance institutions, farmers, foresters, forest communities and indigenous peoples, beginning with the development of shared roadmaps for agricultural and forestry products in the Biomes/ landscapes of greatest shared risk and shared benefit, for nature and people”.

The report notes that the summit is currently scheduled to take place shortly before the transition period deadline for agreeing initial post-Brexit trade deals. It, therefore, encourages Ministers to embed zero-deforestation clauses in any future trade deals – both with and outside of the EU.

International Trade Secretary Liz Truss kick-started UK-US negotiations for post-Brexit trade deals earlier this month. Her key negotiating objectives state that any free trade agreement (FTA) “will not threaten the UK’s ability to meet its environmental commitments or its membership of international environmental agreements”.

As for agreements with the EU, both sides agreed last month that any deal should contain a “non-regression” clause on environmental protection, following months of calls to action from businesses, green campaigners and MPs. But reports regarding the US and EU alike fail to mention deforestation.

Sarah George

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