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Frequently Asked Questions


Why is Forest 500 important?

We need to end tropical deforestation to tackle climate change and meet the targets set in the Paris Agreement. Tropical forests provide essential habitat for wildlife and are important for water supplies. That is why governments and companies endorsed the New York Declaration on Forests in 2014, calling for an end to commodity-driven deforestation by 2020.

What is asssessed?

The Forest 500 assessment looks at whether the most influential companies in forest-risk supply chains (palm oil, soy, cattle, timber, pulp and paper) are addressing deforestation risks through their policy commitments, and at what they say they are doing to implement these commitments. It also assesses the policies of the most important financial institutions providing finance to these companies. This means that both the companies and the financial institutions can be held to account against their commitments, and can benchmark their own performance against competitors. 

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How is the Forest 500 selected?

The 350 companies selected are the largest companies throughout palm oil, soy, cattle, timber or paper supply chains. Forest 500 selection covers the whole supply chains for these commodities, from producers to consumers. The 150 financial institutions are those that provided the most finance through shares, loans or bonds to those 350.  

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Have the companies chosen been directly linked to causing deforestation?

The companies and investors included in the Forest 500 have significant influence over the production and processing of the commodities that drive deforestation. The companies have been identified due to their size and market share. Financial institutions are selected based on the size of their investments in the 350 companies. They are at significant risk of driving deforestation, and need policies to prevent this from happening.

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Will the financial institutions and companies included in the Forest 500 change over time?

The Forest 500 have been identified using a methodology that takes into consideration issues such as company size, their links to commodity supply chains, and market shares within each industry sector. Considering that companies are being bought and merge with others on a regular basis, it is likely that a small number of new companies will be included every year while others that become less relevant or have merged may be deleted. The selection is reviewed every two years in order to ensure the most relevant actors continue to be assessed. 

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The assessment no longer includes jurisdictions. Why not?

Previous Forest 500 assessments (2014, 2015, 2016, 2017) have ranked key jurisdictions on their deforestation policies. The 2018 and 2019 assessments focused on company performance, rather than jurisdictions. Jurisdictions are still included in the selection process, key producing and trading jurisdictions are identified, in order to guide the company and therefore financial institution selection. 

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Why do you only include six commodities in your assessments?

While palm oil, soy, beef and leather, and timber and pulp & paper are not the only commodities that cause deforestation and land conversion, they have been the key drivers in  recent years. We may consider adding other commodities in the future.

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Are companies in different supply chain segments assessed differently?

While we recognise that some assessment criteria are easier or harder to meet depending on the positioning of a powerbroker along the supply chain (in particular when it comes to companies), zero deforestation can only be achieved if all actors ensure their activities are not impacting forests globally. In addition, the research carried out shows that every criterion against which each powerbroker has been assessed has been met by at least one representative on each supply chain segment and in each Forest 500 category, showing that progress is possible and this criteria can be met.

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Have you assessed the companies and financial institutions in the languages they operate in?

Yes, wherever possible powerbrokers have been assessed in the key languages they communicate in. In particular languages included Arabic, Bahasa Indonesia, Bahasa Malay, Dutch, English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin, Norwegian, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish and Swedish.
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How do you define zero deforestation and zero net deforestation?

There are a number of initiatives and different approaches aiming to define “zero deforestation” “zero net deforestation” or “deforestation free”. While there is no global consensus on a definition of either term, what they have in common is the recognition that natural forests need to be preserved due to the ecosystem services they provide, the biodiversity they hold, and their contribution to climate change mitigation.

While this project does not follow a strict definition of zero or zero net deforestation, it is implicit that zero net deforestation should not allow for offsetting deforestation of certain irreplaceable ecosystems, such as high conservation value forest areas, primary forests or intact forest landscapes with afforestation.

For a summary of the state of the discussion see the Forests Dialogue paper Understanding ‘Deforestation-Free’

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How objective is the selection methodology?

The methodology that was used to identify the Forest 500 can be found here. We believe that this represents the current best effort to identify the key powerbrokers. Nevertheless, given the lack of reporting in some sectors and the significant lack of data available, it is not possible to guarantee the accuracy of all information contained on this site.

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Do you release the detailed scoring? 

The full methodology is available online, and all scores (out of 100) are available to view on each company or financial institution profile, or you can download the full dataset. Back to top

What if the companies and financial instituons have commitments but don’t publish them on their websites?

We believe that it is crucial that policies are made available online so that all stakeholders can assess their robustness and hold powerbrokers accountable for their commitments.

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Will the assessment methodology be reviewed to reflect policy developments?

The Forest 500 methodology is reviewed each year. In 2019 the methodology was tightened and brought into line with the Accountability Framework. This sets out a common framework for companies seeking to address deforestation in their supply chains. We have also added new indicators for companies on greenhouse gas emissions from land-use change, as well as a cut-off date after which a company will no longer accept deforestation in their supply chain. We have also strengthened some of our pre-existing indicators for companies, including those on gender rights in the supply chains, and on compliance of suppliers, which has altered the scores of some companies.Back to top