A guide for action

Deforestation and conversion won’t stop unless business and governments adopt a systemic approach to sustainable sourcing

The world’s most valuable natural ecosystems – forests, savannahs, grasslands and peatlands, among others – are being destroyed at an alarming rate, endangering life and livelihoods around the globe. These crucial natural ecosystems help regulate the environment, maintain biodiversity, and support food security as well as human health, rights and livelihoods.

Much of this destruction can be attributed to just seven key commodities: cattle, soy, palm oil, wood fiber, cocoa, coffee and rubber. The first four of these alone are responsible for 54% of recent agriculture-driven deforestation. In 2010, a resolution by the Consumer Goods Forum (CGF) to achieve zero net deforestation by 2020 was signed. Since then, only 56-66% of large companies made commitments. These pledges are welcomed and necessary. However, ten years later, there is still a large gap between aspiration and implementation.

Determining whether and how a company has put its pledge into action remains a struggle. For those companies that have made progress, documenting whether their actions actually reduce deforestation and conversion is even more difficult to gauge. Only 41-46% of companies report on the progress made toward their commitments, and the average progress reported versus target is only 55% – with a great share of this progress achieved through certification schemes that have varying standards and impacts on deforestation and conversion. Progress reported against targets varies among commodities: timber, pulp and paper sectors report 67% progress against targets, cattle 55%, palm oil 50% and soy 48%.

Continued deforestation and conversion demand stronger and more innovative corporate action and reporting, with systems and practices to bring smarter implementation and greater transparency in reporting progress against commitments. Businesses must modify individual supply chains to engage their suppliers, by buying only from those with a sustainable total footprint. Integrated approaches are needed, where corporate commitments work within policy frameworks alongside evolved financial systems and instruments to support efforts to halt environmental destruction.

Businesses are well positioned to be the driving force behind more coordinated efforts than in the past, integrating a wider consideration of stakeholders into their strategies for reducing deforestation and conversation. To be successful, these efforts must be complemented by legislative action from governments and more sustainable investment by financial institutions.

Our planet and its inhabitants cannot wait another decade to see corporate commitments bear fruit. The dual impacts of climate change and nature loss are already being strongly felt, endangering biodiversity, human health, and livelihoods.

The commodity footprint

Despite the vital nature of forests, savannahs and grasslands, deforestation and conversion continues to occur at an alarming rate. 

Business progress

The private sector needs to bolster implementation efforts to stop deforestation and conversion.

Call to action

Three priority intervention areas to turn commitments into action

Private sector actors at every level of the value chain must do more if we are to save our planet’s forests, savannahs and grasslands – in coordination with the public and finance sectors

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Photos and graphics © WWF or used with permission. Text is available under Creative Commons license.

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