Forest Positive Approach Is Key Driver of Industry Progress and Credibility on Deforestation, Forest 500 Results Show
By Didier Bergeret, Director of Sustainability, and Debora Dias, Senior Manager, Environmental Sustainability, The Consumer Goods Forum
To create a forest positive future for climate, people, and nature, businesses must take action quickly and at scale to address deforestation, forest degradation, and conversion risks in their supply chains. As our planet continues to lose millions of hectares of forests per year thanks to human activity – notably through the production of commodities such as palm oil, soy, wood pulp and fibre, and beef – there is no time to waste. The rich biodiversity of our planet, the temperature of our climate, and the wellbeing and livelihoods of the 1.6 billion people who live and work in forests depend on it.
Our Forest Positive Coalition of Action is the most ambitious collective of consumer goods companies taking action against commodity-driven deforestation and conversion, and Coalition members are striving to become forest positive businesses by implementing a five-step strategy to responsible sourcing. Known as our Forest Positive Approach, it requires businesses to have:
- A public commitment to deforestation and conversion-free across entire commodity business including a public time-bound action plan with clear milestones;
- A process for regular supplier/producer engagement;
- A mechanism to identify and respond to grievances/non-compliances;
- Support for initiatives delivering forest positive development at landscape/jurisdictional and/or sectoral level; and
- Regular public reporting against Key Performance Indicators.
We developed this approach in consultation with key stakeholders from our industry and civil society, and through our Commodity Roadmaps and guidance for companies and their suppliers, we are helping drive forest positive transformation throughout the value chain. For our members, being forest positive businesses means protecting forests is at the heart of how they operate. Our Coalition is committed to implementing business models that help forest ecosystems and communities thrive, all the while ensuring the long-term success of its member companies.
However, we know that as a whole, our industry still has ways to go on the forest positive journey: as the recent results of Global Canopy’s annual Forest 500 rankings illustrate, many companies and the financial institutions that support them are still behind in taking action around deforestation. The report assesses 350 companies – including 18 of our Coalition members – and is a key resource to understand industry progress against deforestation. Global Canopy is also one of our Coalition’s key stakeholders who provides critical input on our strategies and actions, including our Forest Positive Approach.
This year, the report highlighted several key areas where companies still need to take action, and notably, these areas are strongly aligned with our Forest Positive Approach. We are pleased that our strategy aligns with the expectations of civil society, and we strongly agree with many of the report’s calls to action. For example:
- “(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.” Having a commitment to forest positive sourcing is the first step of our Forest Positive Approach. To drive any meaningful action against deforestation, companies must first have their own clear objectives and strategies in place.
- “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.” In order to drive true transformation at scale, we believe that all businesses across the value chain must become forest positive. The Forest Positive Approach calls for engagement with upstream suppliers to create momentum by ensuring upstream suppliers’ commodity operations are fully forest positive – meaning we look to create not just an abundance of forest positive commodities, but an abundance of forest positive commodity suppliers. It also requires businesses to have mechanisms in place for responding to grievances and non-compliance with their commitments – keeping everyone accountable to the forest positive vision.
- “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.” We also believe addressing human rights abuses linked to deforestation and conversion is critical along with ensuring the protection and wellbeing of people who live and work in forests, particularly Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities (IP/LC). As a result, we are working to incorporate actions to respect IP/LC rights into our Commodity Roadmaps – starting with palm oil – and also supporting landscape-level initiatives that have positive impacts on human rights and forest communities. These efforts are in parallel to the work of our Human Rights Coalition which, through its People Positive Palm Project, is addressing systemic human rights challenges and advancing Worker wellbeing in the Malaysian palm oil sector by improving suppliers’ due diligence practices and helping develop enabling policy environments for responsible recruitment and employment. We will also take our learnings from this project and apply them to other commodities and geographies.
- “98% of Forest 500 companies with climate commitments are likely to miss them due to insufficient progress on deforestation.” For us, forest positive is climate positive, and we know that it will be impossible to reach any climate goals without meaningful action on forests. Through reducing deforestation and conversion and supporting forest positive commodity production, businesses can have a huge contribution to decarbonisation efforts and help our industry reach net-zero.
- “Financial institutions’ actions are far too slow given their high exposure and influence.” The financial sector is a critical actor in reaching a forest positive future and we have already initiated conversations with key stakeholders about how to work to bring about the forest positive vision together. We look forward to continuing engaging with them to leverage their influence in the industry.
- “The political momentum for addressing deforestation … must be turned into practical steps to address the problem – with legislation part of the package.” Legislation is a critical tool for enabling and driving corporate action on deforestation. Our members are eager to provide the industry’s voice in the development of emerging due diligence legislation linked to deforestation and we are already in dialogue with producing and purchasing governments including Brazil, China, Indonesia, and the European Union.
With half of our Coalition member companies ranking in the top 50 companies assessed by Forest 500 and our agreement with many of the reports takeaways, it is clear that our Coalition’s forest positive strategy is aligned with the expectations of civil society for how businesses can take action around deforestation and conversion risks in their supply chains.
It is also clear that both in our Coalition and beyond, our industry must continue to keep working towards forest positive by taking action and, critically, sharing reports on progress and impact transparently. Membership to our Coalition is open to any consumer goods brand or retailer looking to lead industry efforts against deforestation and conversion, though our strategic and technical resources are all open source and available for all. We also collaborate and engage with more than 200 external organisations including supply chain partners and civil society members. In line with Forest 500, we call for everyone – businesses, governments, investors, and civil society alike – to ramp up individual and collective efforts to help us reach forest positive. Our forests, people, and climate – and our businesses – depend on it.