Consumer goods giants worth $1.8trn team up to tackle deforestation

Nestle, Mars and Unilever are among the 17 multinational consumer goods firms leading a new corporate coalition dedicated to tackling deforestation, forest degradation and land conversion in supply chains.

Consumer goods giants worth $1.8trn team up to tackle deforestation

With rates of forest loss accelerating

Launched by the Consumer Goods Forum (CGF) at Climate Week NYC, the ‘Forest Positive Coalition of Action’ consists of the chief executive officers of each of the partaking companies and will engage an array of stakeholders across the value chains of key forest-related commodities, from producers and suppliers, to policymakers and consumers.

The companies represented by the coalition are Carrefour, Colgate-Palmolive, Danone, Essity, General Mills, Grupo Bimbo, Jeronimo Martins, Mars, METRO, Mondelez International, Nestle, Procter & Gamble (P&G), PepsiCo, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Unilever and Walmart. The cohort has a collective market value of $1.8trn. 

As members of the coalition, these companies are committing to engage with suppliers and traders to roll out ‘forest-positive’ solutions across the value chain of key commodities with forest links, such as paper and pulp, palm oil and soy. The coalition’s framework also requires members to “join forces” to conserve and restore forests in key production landscapes as a pre-competitive issue and to report on progress regularly and publicly.

One of the key remits of the coalition will be engaging with governments in producer nations and importing nations, promoting the introduction of stronger legislation to protect forests and the livelihoods of workers across the supply chain. The UK Government, for example, could soon mandate large companies to prove that their supply chains are deforestation-free and impose hefty fines for non-compliance.

To ensure that the coalition’s activities benefit an array of stakeholders and adequately respond to the scale of forest-related challenges without creating unintended negative consequences, the CGF has said that it will “engage a variety of voices from the get-go”, including activists, community groups and innovative start-ups and scale-ups. Sponsorship for the coalition’s activities is being jointly provided by Mars, Carrefour and the CGF.

“We believe forest protection is a driver of economic growth, not a sacrifice to growth,” Mars’ president and chief executive Grant Reid said.

“In the wake of the Covid-19 crisis, we must ensure that efforts to protect forests are part of the global response. This response requires all actors with an interest in ending deforestation and who are committed to being part of the solution to come together”.

Reid’s latter comment comes amid reports that deforestation in the Amazon has dramatically increased since the World Health Organisation first declared Covid-19 a pandemic. According to WWF, deforestation was up 150% in March 2020 compared to the average figures for March 2017, 2018 and 2019. Those clearing land are thought to have been taking advantage of reduced patrols.

Forest-positive future

In related news, HP has committed to planting one million trees by the end of 2020, in a first step towards its vision to restore 200,000 hectares of forest by the end of 2025 and become a forest-positive business.

The company works with organisations including WWF and the Arbor Day Foundation to facilitate its reforestation and forest restoration activities. Through its partnership with the latter, it has funded tree-planting projects in California, Michigan, Florida and the Mississippi River Valley this year.

The Arbor Day Foundation is notably a member of, an initiative co-founded by the World Economic Forum and American Forests in a bid to plant and conserve one trillion trees across the US by 2030.

“At HP, we believe the science that confirms this is the crucial decade for addressing climate change and know that ensuring access to critical natural resources like forests and water is a key part of a global solution,” the firm’s chief sustainability and social impact officer Ellen Jackowski said.

In total, HP will invest $11m in sustainable forest partnerships through to 2025. The funding will not only finance planting and conservation, but contribute to WWF’s efforts to develop science-based corporate targets for forests.

Sarah George

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