The global context

It is now universally accepted that tackling deforestation is a critical step towards achieving the Paris climate goals.

  • The UN-backed Race to Zero and world leaders have stepped up their rhetoric and demands, making it clear that net-zero policies that don’t mention deforestation are incomplete.
  • The Glasgow Financial Alliance on Net Zero (GFANZ), a group of powerful financial institutions representing assets worth over $140 trillion, has included action on deforestation as a key pillar in its newly published transition guidance.
  • The recently agreed Global Biodiversity Framework at COP15 underlines the connection between climate change, the growing nature crisis and ending tropical deforestation, and adds yet another reason for companies and financial institutions to start taking action rather than putting off the inevitable.
  • The European Union, the world’s largest market, has brought in a strong new law on due diligence for deforestation, and the UK is close behind.

Why does the Forest 500 matter now?

We are three years past the 2020 deadline that many organisations set themselves to halt deforestation, and just two years away from the UN’s deadline of 2025 for companies and financial institutions to eliminate commodity-driven deforestation, conversion and the associated human rights abuses – a step that is essential to meeting our global net-zero targets and averting catastrophic climate change.

The case for urgent action on deforestation and associated human rights has never been stronger. And companies and financial institutions still failing to take action are looking increasingly ill-prepared and at risk. 

201 (40%) of the companies and financial institutions with the most exposure to, and influence on tropical deforestation still haven’t set a single policy on deforestation.

For nine years, Global Canopy’s Forest 500 has tracked the policies and performance of the 350 most influential companies and 150 financial institutions linked to deforestation in their supply chains and investments. Every two years we re-run this data to ensure we have the most up to date companies and financial institutions included. Our data highlights those that are taking action and those that are ignoring the problem altogether.

Find key findings and recommendations below, and download this year’s annual report for more detail and case studies of those who are taking steps towards ending deforestation.

Forest500 Annual Report 2023 Assets Aw5

Download the 9th annual Forest 500 report

Download the full report pdf
Watch highlights from the launch webinar of the Forest 500 annual report. The full recording is available at the bottom of this page.

Inaction on human rights particularly concerning

Deforestation is often inextricably linked to human rights abuses. Clearing land to capitalise on the growing demand for commodities can result in conflicts between companies and dispossessed communities. But action on the human rights abuses associated with deforestation is failing across the board.

This year Global Canopy updated our scoring on human rights to include additional assessment criteria, such as respecting the customary rights to land, resources and territory of Indigenous peoples and local communities, and whether they have a zero-tolerance approach against threats and violence for forest, land, and human rights defenders.

Our assessments found that companies were not keeping up with the best practice for companies in forest-risk supply chains, and the average company’s score on associated human rights fell by 7 percentage points with the addition of new indicators. Even companies that may be taking action on human rights issues in other areas are failing to recognise and act on the wide range of human rights abuses linked to deforestation they are helping to drive. Action on deforestation is inextricably linked to action on associated human rights abuses.

Partial action from companies putting net-zero commitments at risk

While some companies are taking action and can be an example to others, our latest assessments show that not enough companies are acting. Even if they have policies in place, commitments without action are not worth the paper they are written on.

  • 109 (31%) of the companies with the greatest influence on/exposure to tropical deforestation risk through their supply chains don’t have a single deforestation commitment for any of the commodities to which they are exposed.
  • Of the 100 companies with a deforestation commitment for every commodity to which they are exposed, only half (50%) are monitoring their suppliers or sourcing regions in line with their deforestation commitments for every commodity.
  • Many human rights abuses are linked to deforestation, but none of the companies assessed meet the requirements for all human rights commitments alongside their deforestation commitments for all of the commodities to which they are exposed.
Forest500 Annual Report 2023 Assets Aw3

Action by finance sector far too slow given its high exposure and influence

The financial institutions identified as part of the Forest 500 provide US$6.1 trillion in finance to companies in forest-risk supply chains. Yet only a small proportion of financial institutions most exposed to deforestation are addressing deforestation as a systemic risk. The finance sector has outsized impact and influence on the market, but has made comparably less progress than other sectors.

  • Only 16 (11%) financial institutions most exposed to deforestation have policies for all four commodities that are assessed.
  • 92 (61%) of the financial institutions that are most exposed to deforestation do not have a deforestation policy covering their lending and investments.
  • In 2022, these 92 financial institutions with no deforestation policies provided US$3.6 trillion in finance to the companies with the highest exposure to deforestation risk.
  • Deforestation poses a systemic risk to the finance sector – financial, material and reputational – but still only 48 (32%) financial institutions have publicly recognised deforestation as a business risk.
  • Financial institutions are doing far too little on human rights. Only 41 (27%) have a Free, Prior and Informed Consent policy for at least one commodity, and just nine (6%) have a policy to respect the customary rights of Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities to land, resources, and territory.
Forest500 Annual Report 2023 Assets Aw12


Companies and financial institutions:

Companies and financial institutions should recognise deforestation as a risk to their business and set commitments and policies that achieve deforestation, conversion and associated human rights abuses-free supply chains and financing no later than 2025. It is long overdue for companies and financial institutions with exposure to deforestation to put this basic building block in place.

In parallel, they should convert promises into action by making and reporting on progress against best-practice guidance (like that available from the Accountability Framework Initiative, or according to Global Canopy’s Finance Sector Roadmap).


Governments should follow the lead of the EU in adopting strong due diligence legislation aligned with the commitments made by almost every country worldwide in the Glasgow Declaration on Forests and Land Use, the Paris Agreement, and the Global Biodiversity Framework. The EU and UK should further extend their lead by moving towards inclusion of the finance sector in its legislation.

Civil society:

With only a short time to 2025, civil society organisations have a vital role to play in increasing pressure for private sector inaction on deforestation – recognising how pivotal this is for the climate, nature and human rights agendas – and maintaining (and where needed, strengthening) focus on those making no visible progress.

Download the 9th annual Forest 500 report

Download the full report

Launch webinar available as a podcast

In this episode the former BBC Science editor David Shukman is joined by Global Canopy’s Executive Director Niki Mardas and Forest 500 lead Emma Thomson, alongside sustainable finance consultant and member of the Kichwa people of Sarayaku, Emil Sirén Gualinga, and the Executive Director of Business for Nature, Eva Zabey. They discuss the current realities of deforestation alongside the positive actions that can be taken to make 2023 a watershed year for deforestation.

Listen to the podcast
Podcast Artwork
Watch the full webinar recording.