Download data
deforestation in the Amazon (istock)


Earth Day 2022 - Tweeting about promises is not enough

The UN Secretary General has accused some business leaders of lying when it comes to claiming to be on track for 1.5 degrees. Protecting nature is one of the best ways to turn words into tangible actions.

2022 has been a year when the experts have tried to make clear how stark the climate crisis actually is. February’s IPCC report, by the world’s leading climate scientists, said there is a “brief and rapidly closing window to secure a liveable future.” It was followed up in April by a second report warning that it’s “now or never.” Both reports highlighted nature as a key weapon in the fight against rising temperatures. Ending deforestation is a win-win, protecting nature and reducing climate emissions. So if we’re to listen to the science, this Earth Day has to yield something different to what we’ve seen before.

Earth Day has become an annual moment. A day when the great and the good celebrate the planet we live on. And in a world of social media, it’s a day that companies use to highlight their environmental credentials. The problem is, as the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres says, “some government and business leaders are saying one thing – but doing another.”

Graph shows number of tweets by companies and financial institutions about Earth Day with both increasing in the last four years - with

Global Canopy’s Forest 500 ranking assesses the 350 companies and 150 financial institutions with the greatest influence on tropical deforestation. Alongside the Climate and Land Use Alliance’s Food Nature Climate Dialogue, we have developed a new social listening accountability tool. It enables us to track what these companies are saying on key environmental and social issues. That means we can compare the messages in their tweets, to their policies and performance.

We looked at what the companies and financial institutions assessed by Forest 500 were tweeting about on Earth Day in 2021. We found that 29 of the financial institutions tweeted about it. Eight of them score nothing on the Forest 500 assessment, they have no policies to tackle deforestation – half scored under 10%.

Travelers is one of the biggest insurers in the United States. It tweeted on Earth Day last year: “We’re thrilled to announce that we have extended our support of @AmericanForests and expect to plant an additional 1.5 million trees by June 2022.” But in the Forest 500 annual assessment the insurer scores 0%. It has no deforestation policies. It might be planting trees in the US, but that doesn’t mean its investments aren’t destroying tropical forests.


“Cutting down a tropical rainforest cannot be compensated by planting a pine tree.” 

Chris West, Deputy Director for Research at the Stockholm Environment Institute


Sunlife is an international financial services company headquartered in Canada. As of 2017 it had over CAD $940 billion worth of assets under management. It used last year’s Earth Day to tweet: “Take a moment to recognize the beauty of the outdoors as we celebrate #EarthDay. We believe in caring for nature, plants, and land as an integral part of our own health, well-being, and environment.” It also scores 0% in the latest Forest 500 assessment because it has no policies for the four forest risk commodities its assets are exposed to.

It’s not just financial institutions who don’t have the policies to back up their tweets. Companies also got in on the act.

Groupe Lactalis is a French dairy giant behind brands like Rachel’s Organic and President. Last year it tweeted: “Raw milk production can generate more than 2/3 of Dairy carbon emissions. In the article, our International Project Leader tells us more on the partnerships initiated to deliver on our ambitions to mitigate Climate change.” Their Forest 500 score was just 2%. Soy production is the second biggest driver of tropical deforestation. Much of that soy becomes animal feed. Groupe Lactalis – like three quarters of dairy companies that were assessed – has no deforestation commitments for its soy supply chains. 

Soy in supply chains is a blind spot for many companies. US chocolate maker Hersheys is good at reporting and implementing deforestation in its palm oil supply chains. Its tweet a year ago read: “Happy #Earthday! We recognise that everyone must do their part to fight climate change, which is why we’ve set ambitious goals to create a cleaner and more sustainable planet.” In the Forest 500 assessments the company does much better than many food companies. But it still only scores 46% because it does not have a commitment for soy hidden in the milk used in chocolate as well as the soy lecithin used as a food additive. 


“The fate of the living planet is the most important issue facing mankind.”
Gaylord Nelson


Earth Day began in 1970, the brainchild of a US senator called Gaylord Nelson. It inspired twenty million Americans to take to the streets. In 2022 climate scientists are protesting and risking arrest because their warnings are being ignored. Over the last five years more and more companies and financial institutions have used Earth Day to highlight their environmental credentials. But an increase in tweets hasn’t led to changes on the ground. Deforestation in Brazil is at a 15 year high. Over the last eight years of Forest 500 assessments we’ve seen an increase in tweets, but a shocking lack of action from companies and financial institutions.

If deforestation were a country it would be the third biggest emitter in the world. Our global economy drives those emissions. The science is clear, that has to change. And companies and financial institutions can lead the way. They can set and implement strong deforestation commitments and policies, covering deforestation, conversion, and associated human rights abuses. They can use the guidance on deforestation-free finance to ensure their portfolios become deforestation-free. And they can join multi-stakeholder efforts like the TNFD which enable cross sector collaboration. This Earth Day tweets must become tangible actions. 

See all articles relating to Agri commodities

See all articles relating to Dairy