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Not on target: the NYDF companies failing to act

Thirty one of the companies assessed by Forest 500 are signatories to the New York Declaration on Forests. Has this global commitment led to change in these companies' supply chains?

by Helen Burley

The UN Secretary General’s Climate Action Summit taking place in New York this week marks the five-year anniversary since the launch of the New York Declaration on Forests – when governments, companies and civil society pledged to halve tropical deforestation by 2020 and end it by 2030.

Five years on, the latest New York Declaration on Forests Progress Assessment finds there is little evidence that these goals are on track, and achieving the 2020 NYDF targets is likely impossible. This includes Goal 2, which sets a specific target to support and help meet the private-sector goal of eliminating deforestation from the production of agricultural commodities such as palm oil, soy, paper, and beef products by no later than 2020.

Forty nine companies signed the New York Declaration. Thirty one of these companies are included in the Forest 500 selection of the 350 most influential companies in forest-risk supply chains. So how did these companies score in the most recent assessment? And are they taking action to eliminate the risks of deforestation in their supply chains?

Companies failing to act

Our analysis finds that 14 of these companies have failed to publish a zero deforestation commitment covering all the commodities in their supply chains. Making a commitment to zero deforestation across commodities is the crucial first step in eliminating deforestation from supply chains.

Three of the companies (Grupo Bimbo, McDonald’s and Wal-Mart) have made overarching commitments but have not translated these into relevant policies for the specific commodities they source.

Failure to implement

Eight of the signatory companies are not disclosing information about what they are doing to implement the commitments they have made. These commitments are meaningless if they are not implemented.

Limited signs of progress

Only two of the NYDF signatory companies that are assessed in the Forest 500 (Kao Corp. and Nestle) are implementing and reporting progress on commitments for all of the commodities that they produce or buy and transparently reporting the volumes that they are sourcing in compliance with their deforestation-free commitment.

Progress to a deforestation-free supply chainOur analysis suggests that of the 31 companies assessed, while 55% have an over-arching deforestation commitment, the numbers fall away when it comes to commitments to specific actions and reporting on implementation.

Figure 1: the percentage of the New York Declaration on Forest signatories in the Forest 500 that are at each stage in the path to a deforestation free supply chain.

Heading towards 2020

As the 2020 deadline looms, the corporate sector needs to do more to recognise and act on the deforestation that their business is linked to, and the consequences of not acting.

But government signatories must also look at what they can do to support the commitment they made five years ago in New York. And governments in consumer countries, including in Europe, must consider legislation requiring companies to carry out due diligence on their supply chains.

The call from the UN Secretary General’s Summit is for greater ambition to address climate change – and taking action on tropical deforestation is key.


Photo: Andrew Rowe via flickr.comcreative commons licence