Where do we go from here? What private sector progress on zero-deforestation commitments really means?
Private sector pledges to reduce deforestation associated with major agricultural supply chains have created significant momentum to reduce the pressure on tropical forests. The 2016 NYDF Progress Assessment Report – an annual study conducted by a coalition of civil society and research groups to track progress towards the goals of the New York Declaration on Forests (NYDF)- confirms increasing efforts to eliminate deforestation from agricultural supply chains; a trend that is also reflected in an increase in endorsements of the NYDF, and a growing membership of the Tropical Forest Alliance 2020.
In 2016, 212 companies made new commitments to eliminate deforestation from their supply chains, totaling over 400 companies cumulatively making more than 700 commitments. Most pledges come from consumer-facing companies and refer to sustainable palm oil and timber. Over half of the 629 companies tracked by Supply-Change.org have committed to reducing deforestation related to these commodities.
Yet significant implementation challenges persist. The 2016 NYDF progress assessment shows that moving from commitment to implementation poses a hurdle, and companies are often unable to report compliance to their deforestation policies. Most companies remain unable to trace commodities to the farm level and very few (10 of 26 companies interviewed) have geo-spatial information on their supplying farms. Only 13 percent of 179 manufacturers and retailers tracked by CDP work directly with their suppliers to implement sustainability requirements. This lack of communication and coordination perpetuates a disconnect along the supply chain that is preventing commitments – primarily made by companies headquartered in North America and Europe – from being translated to action where they would make the most impact, which is through engagement with those companies that are directly involved in production.
Part of this onus falls to governments, as companies also describe little improvements in public support and stakeholder dialogue. Of 25 forest-risk commodity producing countries assessed by Forest 500, only five had made a zero-net, regional, or commodity-specific zero deforestation commitment. However, despite a lack of governance and overall policy support, engagement with REDD+ is raising the position of forests on jurisdictional agendas and a number of examples of successful private and public sector collaboration have emerged. Despite the multitude of challenges, there is progress in a number of areas.
For example, the public and private sector are cooperating in Brazil to address cattle as driver of deforestation. Large meatpackers such as JBS, Marfrig and Minerva have signed agreements with various states in Brazil banning purchases from ranches that clear land illegally. Similarly, Colombia has started a program called ”Ganaderia Sostenible” that provides farmers with payments for sustainable forest practices and is complimented by companies like Grupo Exito that have pledges to preferentially purchase beef from participating farms. Tools such as GFW-Commodities and Trase will be valuable in tracing commodities down to the municipal and eventual farm levels.
Companies are at an important crossroads in their efforts to provide deforestation-free commodities. They have the opportunity to step up and lead by example, but to do so it will be integral to involve supply chain actors from the ground up. Companies and governments have to cooperate to achieve their respective commitments. Civil society plays an important role to hold public and private actors accountable for following up on their pledges.
No one company or sector can do it alone. We have a shared vision and the way to getting us there is through the strength of partnerships and joint impactful actions.
Today 15 March 2017, Tropical Forest Alliance 2020 launches the 2016-17 Annual report including progress of private sector commitments towards deforestation-free supply chains with a specific focus on those made by TFA 2020 private sector members. read the full report, now live HERE.