Four key steps FMCG firms can take to protect and restore forests

Globally, we’re losing an area of natural forest approximately the size of London each week – with devastating consequences. Research shows that Amazonian deforestation and rising temperatures are pushing the South American monsoon toward an imminent destabilisation point. If it is breached, rainfall in the region would drop by nearly a third, resulting in mass forest dieback which can rapidly alter the world’s climate.

Forests are invaluable allies in fighting the climate emergency by storing carbon. For businesses, the wellbeing of forests closely links to the stability of the global supply chains. We rely on it for providing food and stablising the climate.

Well-captured by the theme of this year’s World Environment Day – #GenerationRestoration, we cannot turn back time, but we can restore forests. We can achieve a forest-positive future by combatting deforestation while reviving forests, water sources and soils.

Now is the time for action and collaboration across sectors on this crucial issue. We must all rally together to do everything we can to halt and reverse deforestation and the conversion of wild lands to farmland.

As part of this collective effort, business, particularly consumer goods firms, wield considerable influence over the fate of forests. In terms of key commodities like palm oil, soy, beef, paper, pulp, and fiber-based packaging, these companies bear a responsibility for the world’s forests and natural ecosystems – and the communities who depend on them.

With a commitment to sharing progress and learnings, the Consumer Goods Forum’s Forest Positive Coalition serves as the world’s leading initiative in the industry. It illustrates how collective action can spearhead the end to deforestation and the conversion of other natural ecosystems.

Alongside more than 20 major companies, the Forest Positive Coalition identified four essential areas for global and local stakeholders to drive meaningful progress, including:

  1. Work towards supply chains that are free of deforestation and natural ecosystem conversion, including the creation of a public time-bound action plan with clear milestones, and public progress reporting;
  2. Engage and support suppliers and producers on the deforestation and natural ecosystem conversion-free supply chains across their full commodity business;
  3. Support sector or jurisdictional landscape-level initiatives to support the protection and restoration of nature, sustainable livelihoods, and sustainable food production for forest-positive landscapes;
  4. Protect the rights of Indigenous people and local communities, who have been the stewards of these lands for generations and safeguard 80% of the world’s remaining biodiversity and forests thanks to their sustainable practices;

For all consumer goods companies, it is a race against time to source goods free of deforestation and land conversion. This begins with a deep understanding of supply chains to foster the transformation of commodity production into forest-positive landscapes, which is why the CGF is convening its members at the Global Summit in Chicago next week to share and scale collaborative ways of creating a forest-positive future and tackling other sustainability issues.

Without urgency and collective action, we risk crossing irreversible deforestation thresholds with far-reaching implications, especially in mitigating the climate emergency. There is a close interdependency between our forests and our climate. We must all go further, faster to restore the damage of our nature.

Didier Bergeret is sustainability director at The Consumer Goods Forum

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