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

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie