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Image shows forest being cleared in Borneo for rubber and palm oil plantations

UK government to legislate on imported deforestation in Environment Bill

The UK government has announced new legislation requiring companies to carry out due diligence to ensure no illegal deforestation is in their supply chains.

The UK government is set to introduce new measures to address its tropical forest footprint, including due diligence requirements for large companies in forest-risk supply chains.

The legislation, which will be included in the Environment Bill currently before the UK Parliament, will require large companies to carry out due diligence to ensure supplies of forest-risk commodities have not been produced as a result of illegal deforestation.

Companies that do not comply with these rules would be subject to fines and other civil sanctions.

The legislation is part of the government’s response to the recommendations put forward by the Global Resource Initiative taskforce to tackle deforestation linked to UK demand for soy, palm oil, rubber and cocoa.

Detailed reporting requirements for companies will be published in secondary legislation.

Calls to extend the scope of the legislation to include legal deforestation have been rejected by the government, who argue that supporting national governments’ own efforts provides the best path to long-term sustainability.

The government has also rejected calls to extend due diligence requirements to financial institutions who may be driving deforestation through the lending and investments. But it said that data provided by companies to comply with the new legislation would be available for the financial services industry to inform investment decisions.  

In an earlier announcement, the UK Chancellor said that companies and financial institutions would be required to disclose climate-related financial information.

New reporting requirements for companies would support “the broader ambitions of the Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures to mainstream and integrate nature-related financial considerations (impacts and dependencies) into the risk architecture, financial decision making and reporting of businesses and banks”.

Global Canopy Policy Director Helen Bellfield commented:

This is a major step forward by the UK government and will raise the bar, requiring large companies to ensure they are addressing deforestation risks in their supply chains. It is disappointing that the government has not gone further, and we hope that the limits of the UK legislation will not hamper the ambition of those companies who have already committed to ensure their supply chains are deforestation-free.”

 

Photo: Aerial view of deforestation for palm and rubber plantations in Borneo, copyright whitcomberd