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Why it matters – the companies getting it wrong on deforestation

We are in the midst of a climate and nature emergency and tropical forests – left standing – can help mitigate both. That is why it matters that companies are not making fast-enough progress in addressing tropical deforestation.

2019 Forest 500 Assessment NGO webinar

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Tropical forests contain over 80% of the world’s documented species. And existing forests absorb approximately one third of the carbon emitted by burning fossil fuels each year.

But they are hugely undervalued by our current economic model.

Our partners on the New York Declaration on Forests assessment group have highlighted that projects to protect forests currently get only 1.5% of the finance that is targeted at climate solutions.

That amount appears even more miniscule if it is compared to the amount of funding still going into the sectors that drive the destruction of forests, including agriculture and commodity supply chains.


Deforestation in action

The Amazon fires last year drew attention to the plight of our tropical forests. In Brazil alone, official figures showed that deforestation increased by 30 percent in the last year.

In response some companies such as H&M and VF Corp, as well as some financial institutions, made pledges or statements on reducing deforestation.

However, many organisations are still making commitments on climate which do not explicitly include policies to tackle deforestation.

Investment giant, BlackRock, for example, recently made a high profile statement on tackling climate but it still does not have any policies on ensuring its investments do not fund deforestation.


The role of Forest 500

Forest 500 was started by Global Canopy in 2014, to track company and financial institution commitments on deforestation. This is the sixth year of our rankings and the sixth annual report.

2020 is a hugely important year. The end of this year is the deadline for so many company and government goals to end deforestation.

But we have known for a while that these will be missed.

Indeed, our annual assessment in 2018 showed as much, and data from Forest 500 and Trase was more recently used by IDH to highlight how companies are behind on commitments for all commodities.

But worst of all, deforestation rates have actually gone up by around 40% since most of these commitments were made. Despite a year-on-year increase in the number of commitments


What next?

It is time to take stock, work out what has gone wrong and what needs to change, and also what has gone right. Because there are some positives from the last five years.

Many companies will have set commitments with absolutely no idea how to achieve them. These companies now have more experience in what to do and how to do it.

There are also far more resources available to help companies in addressing the problem. For example, the Accountability Framework launched last year provides greater guidance to companies in how to set and implement deforestation-free standards.

Deforestation has also noticeably moved up the agenda among companies, among consumers and also policy makers.

Forest 500 provides insight into which of the most exposed companies and financial institutions are:

  • Committed and trying to implement
  • Committed but not transparently implementing
  • Still doing absolutely nothing on deforestation.

It remains crucial to keep tracking the progress of these companies, even as we miss the 2020 goalposts. As deforestation increases, these companies must be held to account.

We may not have another ten years to save our forests – so the need for action is now.

Photo: Shutterstock