Companies need Governments' support to halt deforestation, says Fern survey
The environmental NGO Fern has issued a new report - How businesses are meeting commitments to end deforestation - asking Governments to do more to help companies whose products drive tropical deforestation.
Fern interviewed 15 major companies involved in the production and trade of four agricultural commodities which are causing the most of forest loss worldwide: palm oil, timber, cocoa and rubber.
The survey covered big name Western users and traders of agricultural commodities, such as Unilever, Nestlé, Cargill and IKEA. It also included producer companies based in developing countries which are not household names but nonetheless have considerable influence, such as APP (Asia Pulp and Paper), Sime Darby and Golden Agri-Resources
Areas where companies wanted government support in their efforts to end deforestation included:
- having clear and consistent policies on customary land tenure;
- better and more effectively implemented policies on land use planning and the allocation of concessions;
- stronger protection of forests that are rich in carbon and have high conservation value;
- tougher enforcement of existing laws designed to protect forests.
Failures of government regulation and enforcement were specifically identified as problems.
Other major issues reported in the survey included:
- In general, the companies interviewed believed that global targets for reducing deforestation set out in the UN’s New York Declaration on Forests, and by industry bodies such as the Consumer Goods Forum, would not be met. Companies did, however, expect to deliver on promises they have made about their own operations. Achieving targets for cocoa and rubber was seen as more difficult than for timber and palm oil.
- Social issues, including disputes over land tenure and ownership, were viewed by many companies as critical and far more difficult to resolve than environmental issues. The lack of clarity over ‘who owns the land’ was seen as a particular problem.
- Some companies had experienced problems with investors being more focused on short-term profits; none reported pressure from investors to increase their levels of ambition.
- The cost to companies of meeting their commitments, although difficult to calculate, are seen as significant but not excessive for large companies.
- Systematic external monitoring of overall company commitments and progress towards them is not common, but some companies are developing systems.