‘More transparency needed on global deforestation’

In a recently released report, CDP – a respected international non-profit organisation, which runs a global environmental disclosure system – estimates that about five-million hectares of forest are cleared around the world every year; the equivalent of 15 soccer pitches every minute.

What’s worrying, says the organisation, is that corporate transparency and action on deforestation remains low. “This not only puts corporate revenue at risk, but hinders successful action on climate change and biodiversity loss. In 2020 – a year that marks a critical milestone in the fight against deforestation – corporate action will be under increasing consumer and investor scrutiny.”

According to the report, despite an increased public call for action on deforestation, a large majority of major corporations and companies still fail to be transparent about their impacts on global forest loss. “In fact, in 2018 about 70 percent of the 1 500 entities which were asked to disclose on four forest-risk commodities – timber, palm oil, cattle and soy – failed to do so. More than 350 of these businesses have consistently failed to report over the past three years.”

The report says the brands use commodities that drive deforestation, such as palm oil for chocolates, leather for shoes and paper for packaging. Of the companies that did disclose, nearly a third did not include forest-related issues in their risk assessments.

“With some 92 percent of companies that do assess the risks seeing substantial impacts, it is clear that the business and financial dangers associated with deforestation are going under-reported and ignored,” CDP warns.

According to the report, nearly 450 companies and more than 50 governments have pledged to end deforestation by 2020 – but industry action to date has not been enough to achieve this. “In fact, nearly a quarter of companies have yet to take significant action on deforestation, either taking no action, or acting on only one commodity when they have others requiring attention.

“We define taking action as setting targets – for example, to increase traceability – using certification, engaging with supply chains, or taking part in external initiatives to achieve zero deforestation production.”

In CDP’s view, companies have a significant incentive to lead the way on deforestation. According to its assessment, 25 percent of the businesses that reported potential financial risks from deforestation saw some US$ 30,4 billion (about R443,3 billion) of potential losses due to its impact, primarily from reputational and market risks.

Meanwhile, those that reported business opportunities valued the potential benefits at US$ 26,8 billion (about R390,8 billion).

“With the growing demand for sustainable products and with companies and governments under increasing pressure to show action ahead of the 2020 deadline, now is the time to step up efforts to protect the world’s vital forests,” the organisation says.

According to Morgan Gillespy, CDP Global’s director of forests: “As the impacts of deforestation become of increasing concern to consumers and investors worldwide, the true level of companies’ commitment will be tested. Moving forward, more ambition and robust implementation that covers more entities and a larger geography are critical to achieving no-deforestation commitment post-2020.”

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