Preventing deforestation has been identified as an important way of fighting climate change, but protecting forests is a challenge as the global demand for agricultural products rises. Tropical forests are particularly threatened by growing demand for soy, palm oil, beef, and wood pulp products. These products are linked not only with unsustainable deforestation, but also illegal logging activities.
Last year saw several major efforts to combat this problem, with many of the biggest consumer goods companies promising to get products associated with tropical deforestation out of their supply chains. McDonalds, Kellogg’s, Nestle and General Mills all signed the New York Declaration on Forests, which aims reach net deforestation by 2020.
But how well are these companies keeping their pro-forest comments?
A new website launched by the non-profit Forest Trends, called Supply-Change.org, aims to answer that question. The site, which launched in beta yesterday, tracks the public commitments made by various companies and their progress towards reaching those goals. The site combines self-reported progress with data from groups like the Roundtable for Responsible Soy, the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil and the WWF’s palm oil scorecards.
Of course, different companies have made different levels of commitments, such as different definitions of what deforestation-free means and different timelines for achieving their goals. The Supply-Change.org tool lets one compare and contrast these commitments.
Let’s compare the timber and pulp commitments made by Procter & Gamble and Unilever, two companies that singed the New York Declaration on Forests last year. Procter & Gamble has publicly committed to 40 percent of wood pulp for tissues and towels to sustainably certified by 2015. Last year, they reported that they were 99 percent of the way to accessing this goal. Unilever pledged to 100 percent of packaging to come from recycled or sustainably certified sources by 2020. They’ve reported 62 percent progress towards reaching this goal. Both are taking steps in the right direction, but in different ways.
This may feel a bit like comparing apples and oranges, but many companies have made ambitious goals and haven’t yet reported any progress towards achieving them. Cargill for example, has pledged that 100 percent of their palm oil will be sustainably sourced and produced by 2015, but they haven’t reported progress on this front. That doesn’t mean they won’t make the goal, but it’s good to know there's a tool to hold them accountable.
Cargill isn’t alone in its ambitious goals for this year. According to a report from Supply Change, the largest number of commitments target 2015. They analyzed over 300 unique commitments to tackle deforestation in corporate supply chains, and found that a third of all commitments cite 2015 as the date for achievement.
Forest Trends is still in the process of refining Supply-Change.org, but the site is already a wealth of data. It’s sure to be another valuable tool for environmental groups, activists, governments and reporters.