Danone, Nestlé, Procter & Gamble and Unilever continue to lead the corporate sector in making and living up to zero-deforestation commitments, but many firms have yet to make public sustainability commitments, according to a new ranking by the Global Canopy Programme.
The 2015 Forest 500 assessed and ranked 250 companies, with total annual revenues in excess of $4.5 trillion; 150 investors and lenders; 50 countries and regions; and 50 other influential actors in this space. These 500 so-called "powerbrokers" play a major role in supply chains for commodities fuelling deforestation, which accounts for 10 percent of global carbon emissions, a key contributor to climate change.
Although commercial agriculture drives at least two thirds of tropical deforestation, only 8 percent of all the 250 powerbroker companies assessed have zero or zero net commitments in place that apply across forest risk commodities, including palm oil, soya, beef, leather, paper and timber.
The investment community has made even more limited progress, the report says, with the exception of France’s BNP Paribas, which has become the first Forest 500 investor to make a commitment to zero net deforestation in their agricultural lendings.
Despite 2020 being a key deadline set by the New York Declaration on Forests, one year since its publication few powerbrokers have made new or strengthened procurement and production commitments, the report says.
While the corporate sector has improved marginally overall, many laggards are yet to make public sustainability commitments. Only 8 percent of all the 250 powerbroker companies now have zero or zero net commitments in place that apply across all forest risk commodities.
Of the 31 companies that did not have any policy in year one, only four made a new public policy related to sustainable production and procurement of agricultural commodities this year. Three companies dropped from one point to zero points due to a reduction in the amount of information that is publicly available on their respective websites.
Interestingly, North American-headquartered companies make up 20 percent of the total membership of the Forest 500 and 33 percent of improvers are based there, highlighting the progress that companies headquartered in North America are making. And New York Declaration signatories lead the way towards achieving zero deforestation in agricultural supply chains scoring on average three times higher than non-signatories.
Thirty-one companies moved up by at least one point, with five (Astra Agro Lestari, Groupe Eram, Grupo Bimbo, Mewah International, and News Corp.) moving up by two points. In addition, McDonalds and Bunge introduced zero net deforestation policies across all of their commodities this year. Members of the Consumer Goods Forum, on average, score twice as many points as non-members.
The investment community has made even more limited progress with less than 1 percent of investors adopting zero or zero net commitments that apply to all of their investments or lendings in agricultural supply chains.
The Global Canopy Programme’s report paints a more alarming picture than a separate report released in September by Forest Trends, which more optimistically highlighted how several dozen companies that endorsed the New York Declaration on Forests at 2014’s United Nations Climate Summit are taking concrete steps to eliminate commodity-driven deforestation from their supply chains.