This article originally appeared in Spanish in C84 magazine. Para leer en español, haga clic aquí.

Forests are disappearing at a terrifying rate. Trees are critical components of ecosystems around the world, and their continued loss is a huge problem for our planet, both for people, nature and climate. Over the years, efforts have been made to dramatically scale down commodity-driven deforestation, and while it has yielded some results, there is still so much that all of us can do to accelerate impact.

That is where we at The Consumer Goods Forum (CGF) are here to help make a difference. The Consumer Goods Forum is the only CEO-led organisation that represents both manufacturers and retailers globally. With more than 55 of the world’s top CEOs on our Board of Directors, we bring together the senior leaders from more than 400 retailers, manufacturers, service providers, and other stakeholders across 70 countries. We only exist because our members believe in building better lives through becoming better businesses. Together, our members drive positive change in key yet challenging areas facing the industry such as plastic waste, food systems, workplace health and nutrition, and forced labour. 

Deforestation is one of those key areas, and one we have been addressing for many years. With our Forest Positive Coalition of Action, our members are now working together to remove deforestation, forest conversion and degradation from the value chains of four key commodities: palm oil, soy, paper, pulp and fibre-based packaging and beef. Our Coalition is the most ambitious group of retailers and manufacturers working together to not only transform their own businesses to forest positive, but to work with actors from the supply chain, civil society, governments, and production landscapes to drive true forest positive, transformative change.

As we launch into 2022, we invite more businesses to join us on the forest positive journey and take strides against deforestation. This will be a critical year for the industry. Here is why 2022 is the year to take action against deforestation, and why businesses cannot affort to wait: 

Sustainable business is smart business.

Consumer goods companies create products that are sourced from nature. Palm oil is found in our food and cosmetics; soy beans feed the chickens we eat; and products are likely packaged in paper, derived from trees, or plastic, derived from fossil fuels. The environmental challenges we face today, such as resource scarcity or the need to find alternative fuels, tell us that when we pay for commodities, we also incur an environmental cost. The connection between our industry and the health of the environment is therefore crystal clear: If we want to ensure the success of our supply chains, we need to ensure they are sustainable. 

That is one reason why the Forest Positive Coalition has launched a strategy to transform production landscapes, in areas equivalent to the Coalition’s production-base footprint, to forest positive by 2030. Coalition members are supporting jurisdictional-level approaches that help drive forest conversation, ecosystem restoration, and community inclusion. The goal is to help give back to the landscapes where commodities are derived, like the Siak region of Indonesia where some Coalition members source their palm oil, to ensure not only the longevity of the supply chain, but to ensure valuable people, nature and climate outcomes are achieved.

The political landscape around deforestation is changing.

At the most recent UN Climate Conference, COP26 in Glasgow last November, deforestation was one of the key issues on the negotiation table. The CGF was pleased to see more than 100 national governments come together and collectively agree to end deforestation by 2030. It is encouraging to see this critical issue at the top of mind for the world’s leaders. Additionally, the Forest Positive Coalition participated in the FACT (Forest, Agricultural Commodities and Trade) Dialogue, which brings together value chain actors from smallholders to local leaders to CEOs, to discuss and act on the challenge of deforestation in the consumer goods industry. Led by the UK and Indonesian governments, this dialogue is an important example of leaders from both producing and purchasing countries bringing deforestation to the top of the political agenda. We also saw that the European Commission introduced a new set of due diligence legislation designed to require businesses to increase traceability over their supply chains to ensure products were not created with any deforestation. While negotiations around this legislation are ongoing, these dialogues are a clear signal that the political landscape around deforestation is changing, and a forest positive future is approaching quickly. 

It’s the right thing to do.

Just as consumer goods are produced from commodities derived from nature, they are also produced by people living in nature. Millions of people around the world depend on forests for their homes, communities and livelihoods. The threat of deforestation is therefore not only a critical environmental challenge but a human rights crisis. It is essential that the production and sourcing of the commodities used in consumer goods does not infringe on rights, especially those of indigenous peoples and local communities. Removing deforestation from supply chains – and transforming them to forest positive – is an incredibly important part of the human rights agenda, because when we talk about forest positive commodities, we have to talk about people positive commodities as well.

Deforestation is a complex issue with many drivers and consequences. No business can solve the deforestation crisis on its own, nor can any government or organisation acting alone. Collaboration is the only way forward, and the path to forest positive is built on collective action. We encourage all businesses to join us on the forest positive journey – whether that be by joining our Coalition, adopting actions from our Commodity Roadmaps, or taking other steps towards forest positive. There is no time to waste, and 2022 is a year demanding action. Let’s get to work.

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