At the same time, more
companies have been making commitments to eliminate deforestation in agricultural
supply chains. In 2017, 471
companies had committed to reduce deforestation in cattle, palm oil,
soy, or timber and pulp supply chains – commodities playing a major role in
large-scale tropical deforestation.
That’s good news. But
what do company commitments really mean for forests?
It’s difficult to say
because there are different definitions (sometimes no definition) of what
forest types are protected, minimal guidance on the operational scope of policies,
and lack of time-bound compliance goals.
Palm oil policies are
most common. Yet among companies with the greatest exposure to deforestation,
only 40% have a commitment that meets
these requirements. For soy, it’s around 5%.
commitments and an understanding of how to implement them, companies can’t talk
compellingly about their work. And in our world of increasing transparency,
that’s a big reputational risk.
Bring on AFi
But help is available.
Framework Initiative (AFi) offers a way forward. Put together by a
steering group of 15 non-profit heavyweights, AFi offers a set of standard
definitions, expectations on what commitments should contain, and guidance on
how to implement them. Now in the final stages of public consultation, a first
draft is available online.
Companies will soon have
a single source of guidance for the agricultural supply chains most responsible
for deforestation (palm oil, soy, cattle, timber and pulp, cocoa, coffee and
rubber). AFi, for example, provides guidance on whether companies should
continue to work with suppliers in non-compliance of their policy. (Answer:
yes, unless the supplier has the capacity to comply but shows no willingness to
change.) It also defines how downstream companies should establish traceability
to verify their policies.
Answers to tricky questions such as these were sorely needed. Of course, creating and implementing forest-protection commitments in different environmental, political and social contexts will remain a challenge. But companies following best practice suggestions can now have confidence sharing their work. And – assuming companies refresh existing commitments – we’re on track for a more joined-up approach to eliminating deforestation. A win-win for corporate reputations and sustainability!
Cover image: Sam Beebe, Cleared Forest in Bolivia (source).