Better collaboration needed on deforestation, consultants say

18th November 2014

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  • Management ,
  • Auditing ,
  • Certification


Alima Kabdiyeva

Consumer goods companies working to reduce deforestation in their supply chains need to collaborate with the REDD+ community in order to meet the pledge made at the New York climate talks in September.

The New York declaration on forests set a target to halve forest loss by 2020 and end it completely in 2030. More than 150 businesses, governments, and organisations representing civil society and indigenous peoples sign the communiqué.

Companies signing the declaration represent the majority of businesses consuming commodities that drive deforestation, such soy, palm oil, pulp and paper and cattle products.

Deforestation and forest degradation account for around 15% of total greenhouse-gas emissions. Consultancy PwC estimates that full implementation of the pledge would lead to a reduction of up to 7.5% of total global anthropogenic carbon emissions by 2020.

However, there are significant challenges for consumer goods companies to overcome, it warns in a new report. Commitments needs to be transformed into practical contracts with suppliers, with legal and procurement teams involved and trained appropriately, PwC said.

Producers need to willingly become certified to prevent them selling to buyers who do not require them to meet standards. Those that volunteer may incur costs and will have to commit resources to the certification process and to understanding the technical language, it said.

Supply chains will need to be traceable from the field to the product. This is a particular challenge for palm oil, as oil from different plantations, mills and countries are mixed together during production..

Once traceability is achieved, data needs to be gathered to establish whether the commodity was produced on recently deforested land or will cause forest loss in the future. Experienced personnel, equipped with appropriate technology to collect and analyse the data, will have to visit production sites regularly, said PwC.

Consumer goods companies may also experience difficulties with monitoring and measuring progress, and engaging with national and local governments and communities, it believes.

REDD+ aims to pay developing nations in return for not destroying forest. Governments and organisations, including the UN, have been working on such projects since the Bali climate talks in 2008.

Jim Stephenson, sustainable forestry and agriculture specialist on PwC’s sustainability and climate change team, said that, so far, there has been no large-scale collaboration between the REDD+ community and consumer goods companies on tackling deforestation.

The two communities could help each other, for example, agencies created through REDD+ could help consumer goods companies discuss plans with national and local government, Stephenson said.

Jonathan Grant, climate policy and carbon markets specialist at PwC, said: “The REDD+ community has the skills but not the finance, while consumer goods companies have finance, but not necessarily the skills. If they come together, it could be really effective.”

Meanwhile, UNEP and the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil last week signed a memorandum of understanding to combine their political and institutional resources to make sustainable palm oil the norm across world markets.

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