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Nearly 600 Companies Falling Short of 2020 Target to Reduce Deforestation

Not one of the nearly 600 companies that issued deforestation pledges between 2010 and 2014 is on track to keep those promises by the 2020 deadline, the UK-based non-profit Global Canopy revealed in a release to mark International Day of Forests March 21.

“A lot of leafy promises were made this past decade,” Corporate Knights reports. “Declarations were signed. Celebratory headlines were written. The world’s chainsaws, you could be forgiven for presuming, were going to let up in unison by 2020, when hundreds of deforestation-free pledges would finally kick in.”

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The participating companies included 400 or more organizations attending the 2010 Consumer Goods Forum, and more than 190 signatories to  the New York Declaration on Forests in September 2014, which promised to halve the loss of natural forests by 2020 and stop it altogether by 2030. They were joined by dozens of the world’s biggest palm oil producers and traders, followed by corporate giants like Unilever and McDonald’s.

“Amidst a lack of firm climate commitments, the forest declaration—while voluntary—felt fairly concrete, it felt good, it felt doable,” Corporate Knights recalls. “But if forests keep falling, is anyone held accountable? Global Canopy’s annual Forest 500 ranking has been keeping track of the 350 most influential corporations and 150 financial institutions in forest-risk commodity supply chains (linked to palm oil, soy, cattle, and timber products). It concludes that while every year the number of companies making commitments rises, there’s a serious implementation gap.”

The report concluded that “even companies with ambitious commitments are not putting these into practice,” with more than 40% doing nothing to address deforestation in their supply chains, and almost one-third working with policies that included no clear commitments to implementation.

Corporate Knights says some of the signatories are lurching into action, with some producers reporting progress toward their targets, apparel companies posting their supplier lists, and high-powered environmental campaigning producing some progress on palm oil.

Global Canopy says it is also updating the methodology behind the Forest 500 report to “better distinguish between companies that have set commitments, and those that have taken the next step towards implementation,” but Corporate Knights points to discrepancies between that report and the assessments coming from other forest campaigners. “Global Canopy gives companies like Nestle, Mondelez, and PepsiCo five out of five on their palm policies, when Chain Reaction Research reported in 2018 that the same brands were buying from a top 10 deforester in Asia,” writes Managing Online Editor Adria Vasil. “Greenpeace International reported that major brands like Nestle, PepsiCo, Unilever, and Mondelez were sourcing from palm suppliers responsible for destroying an area of rainforest almost twice the size of Singapore in less than three years.”