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Leon Kaye headshot

Report: Food and Retail Companies Moving Too Slow on Deforestation

Many of the world’s leading brands are not taking enough action on stalling deforestation, which has a massive impact on biodiversity and climate change, according to CDP.
By Leon Kaye

Deforestation occurs at a rate of over 12 million acres (5 million hectares) a year—or the equivalent of about 15 soccer fields a minute. Yet according to CDP, many of the world’s leading retail and food brands are not taking enough action on stalling deforestation, which has a massive impact on biodiversity and climate change.

With countless 2020 environmental deforestation commitments fast approaching, CDP’s recent report on the role of corporations in the struggle against deforestation is as much a call to action as a cause for worry—despite the fact that more companies are engaging with NGOs to take on this problem. If companies don’t step up, young people, environmental activists, NGOs and governments certainly will.

According to the United Kingdom-based organization, of the 306 companies that CDP currently describes as having “high impact forest risk,” these five conclusions generalize the state of the world’s forests and how these companies affect them:

  • Companies’ disclosure and transparency on the subject of deforestation overall can be described at best as poor. CDP claims 70 percent of the companies asked to disclose forest-related information by investors declined to do so.
  • Transparency matters: Almost a third of reporting companies do not disclose forest-related matters in their risk assessments. But of those that do, 92 percent identify substantial risks linked to deforestation.
  • Of those companies that understand forest-related risks, together they report a combined $30.4 billion in potential long-term losses connected to deforestation.
  • About a quarter of reporting companies still have not begun to eliminate deforestation within their supply chains.
  • There are benefits for companies willing to take a stand on deforestation, including an estimated total business opportunity of almost $27 billion, according to CDP’s researchers.

CDP has called out 30 global companies that did not report forest-related disclosures between 2016 and 2018. These include widely-recognized brands that can be found along many a high street or within a shopping center, including British American Tobacco, Walgreens Boots Alliance, Mondalez, Kroger, Macy’s and Gap, Inc.

Social movements are helping to raise awareness about risks related to deforestation, and companies would be wise to follow these activists’ lead. The first half of 2019 alone witnessed large numbers of demonstrations worldwide that urged governments to take action in order to protect the planet from what they described as impending climate disaster. School strikes for climate action, for example, included over 1.4 million young people, from Australia to the U.S., who walked out of school and demanded faster action on climate change. In turn, governments and industries from a range of countries, including Colombia (of which a forest in the country’s coffee growing region is shown above), Norway and South Africa (as well as the U.S.) have been sued over their alleged roles in climate crisis.

Litigation often stems from inaction, and this is where companies can step in and be a part of solving the climate crisis instead of having their brand intertwined with, and signifying, the problem of deforestation. “Identifying risks is a critical element in driving action. [There is] a significant relationship between the awareness of substantial risks and the following company implementation of mitigation actions,” concluded the authors of CDP’s report. “If a company identifies substantial risks, it is more likely to be working to address them.”

Image credit: Leon Kaye

Leon Kaye headshot

Leon Kaye has written for 3p since 2010 and become executive editor in 2018. His previous work includes writing for the Guardian as well as other online and print publications. In addition, he's worked in sales executive roles within technology and financial research companies, as well as for a public relations firm, for which he consulted with one of the globe’s leading sustainability initiatives. Currently living in Central California, he’s traveled to 70-plus countries and has lived and worked in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay.

Leon’s an alum of Fresno State, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California's Marshall Business School. He enjoys traveling abroad as well as exploring California’s Central Coast and the Sierra Nevadas.

Read more stories by Leon Kaye