Corporates set to miss zero-deforestation targets for 2020

A new report has found that no sector is on track to achieve a deforestation-free supply chain by 2020, with individual companies adopting a "piecemeal approach" by largely ignoring big contribution areas to deforestation, such as cattle production.

Private sector commitments including the New York Declaration on Forests and pledges to the Sustainable Development Goals and the Consumer Goods Forum, have created a 2020 deadline for many firms to tackle deforestation in supply chains.

The Forest 500 report, released this week by non-profit Global Canopy, warns that some of the biggest companies sourcing from paper, palm oil, timber, soy and cattle suppliers are “acting too slowly” to address risks of tropical deforestation.

Global Canopy’s supply chains programme lead Dr Sarah Lake said: “This year’s ranking clearly shows that while some leading companies have recognised the importance of tackling deforestation in their supply chains, most have not, and many are taking a piecemeal approach.

“Companies need to develop policies across all their supply chains to ensure forests are protected, and financial institutions need to ensure that their investment policies recognise deforestation risks in their portfolios.”

Corporate giants such as Colgate-Palmolive, Danone, Kellogg, L’Oréal, Marks & Spencer, Nestlé, P&G and Unilever all received full marks for not only having zero-deforestation policies in place but also establishing commodity specific policies.

However, some of the worst performing companies ranked by the report, including Sketchers and Gap, were said to have ignored supply chain impacts altogether.

Cattle production was listed as the biggest driver of tropical deforestation, but company commitments from beef and leather brands have “stalled”. In total, 17% of cattle companies assessed have forestry policies in place and since 2014, four companies tracked by the report have dropped deforestation commitments.

The report ranks 250 companies and 150 financial institutions. For the latter, just 20% have palm oil or timber specific lending or investment policies in place. Alarmingly, only 9% have cattle policies and 11% have soy commitments in place.

Commitments covering palm oil and timber were by far the strongest examined by the report, but just 18 companies obtained full scores for policies. Just five of the tracked companies were able to improve their score, and 25 scored zero for failing to have any policies in place.

Shareholder pressure

Separate research from Global Canopy found that 52% of shareholder proposals between 2011 and 2017, put forward by members of the Ceres Investor Network – which collectively manages more than $17trn in assets – led to the formation of some sort of company action plan or commitment to tackle deforestation risks.

Earlier this year, HSBC became one of the few banking institutions to launch a zero-deforestation policy following a Greenpeace investigation which linked the banking corporation to organisations that have been destroying Indonesia’s rainforests.

Research from CDP warns that the business community is risking up to $941bn on commodities linked to deforestation, with just 13% of companies that responded to a disclosure request making time-bound pledges to zero-deforestation.

Matt Mace

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