Just 1% of businesses are taking strong action on deforestation: study

The EU is responsible for 16% of ‘imported’ tropical deforestation, writes Anke Schulmeister-Oldenhove. Will the new deforestation EU law live up to its promises? [Mauricio Dueñas Castañeda / EPA-EFE]

An analysis of the anti-deforestation work of 553 of the world’s largest businesses has found that just 1% are taking ‘best practice’ action. This is despite the multi-billion-dollar risks associated with inaction, EURACTIV’s media partner edie.net reports.

Conducted by CDP, the analysis covers the corporates currently disclosing information on forestry through its environmental disclosure platform. Those disclosing operate in the timber products, palm oil, soy, cattle products, rubber, cocoa and/ or coffee sectors.

While 93% of the 553 firms are taking at least one of the 15 industry-accepted measure to protect forests, one action is where it stopped for most businesses. Just 1% of the firms analysed were taking all, or almost all, actions relevant to their operations and supply chains – namely Essity, Tetra Pak, L’Oreal and Mars.

Industry-approved actions include ensuring board-level oversight on forest impact; setting robust and public no-deforestation policies; engaging with suppliers on processes and implementing systems to verify compliance with agreed standards and targets.

CDP is warning that holistic action across all of these action areas, at an increased pace and greater scale, is needed if businesses are to properly respond to the twin climate and nature crises.

As well as these moral, environmental and reputational risks, CDP is warning that inaction on deforestation will bear a high financial cost in the coming years and decades. Companies reporting to CDP collectively flagged $53.1bn of risks from deforestation in the last reporting period.

Europe renews pledge to fight deforestation at Paris biodiversity summit

The importance of forests for biodiversity and the need to protect them to prevent future pandemics was emphasised by Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel at the One Planet Summit on Monday (11 January).

The good news is that CDP believes that remediating actions can be cost-effective. It has calculated that addressing the risks flagged by corporates would total just $6.6bn – just 12% of the potential cost of inaction.

“The destruction of the world’s vital forests poses huge risks to the climate, nature, the economy, and also increases the risk of future pandemics, as human activity encroaches on wildlife habitats and comes into contact with zoonotic viruses,” CDP’s associate director of forests, Sareh Forouzesh, said.

“The risks are great, but there is a solid business case for companies sourcing commodities sustainably and taking steps to protect forests. A handful of companies are leading the way – now we need all their peers to follow.

Growing warnings

CDP had previously warned of slow progress on deforestation, as well as decarbonisation and climate risk mitigation, in specific sectors including food and drink.

More broadly, the organisation recently also laid out the scale of financial risks associated with poor environmental disclosure on supply chain activities and weak action on water stewardship. On the former, it priced the costs at $120bn. On the latter, the cost estimate is a staggering $301bn.

The EU's imported deforestation problem – a closer look

Forestry policy was on the agenda for Europe’s agriculture ministers on Monday, which made for a heated debate since Europeans are, through their lifestyles, contributing to massive deforestation worldwide. EURACTIV France reports.

* Note: This article first appeared on edie.net and is reproduced here with kind permission.

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