Images of the dry season fires in the Brazilian Amazon has generated massive media coverage and raised social consciousness about the existential challenges we face if rainforests continue to perish. They are vital to life on earth cleaning the air, circulating freshwater, storing carbon and providing livelihoods for more than a billion people. The latest reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change emphasises that there is no pathway to keep temperature under 1.5 degrees Celsius without halting deforestation.
Yet even as scientists continue to reveal their true value, forests keep vanishing. In 2017 we lost 18 million acres of primary forest the size of Panama; 2018 erased another area the size of Belgium. We know more than 40% of deforestation globally is the result of expanding agriculture to produce commodities such as soybeans, cattle, palm oil, rubber and cocoa. Commodities that are then turned into products that consumers around the world enjoy from ice cream, to roast chicken to shampoo.
Many of the world’s largest companies have made long term goals to eliminate deforestation from their supply chains. As we near the end of our original commitments, we now understand better the drivers of deforestation and the challenges faced. Building on our collective learnings, we remain committed to a forest-positive future. We see an increasing interest and awareness in sustainability issues and a demand for greater transparency and environmental action from consumers around the world in markets from Buenos Aires to Boston, Berlin to Beijing, and we will play our part.
Reducing deforestation in supply chains is an imperative that must become the norm in global trade. It is essential for governments, private sector and civil society to work together to deliver more transformational change. The Soy Moratorium is a stand out example from Brazil and the more recent Palm Oil Moratorium in Indonesia is also delivering promising results. In both cases agricultural production has gone up while deforestation has come down.
Still global trade is anchored by local roots. To move forward, we recognise there needs to be far greater involvement and engagement of those at the foundation of the global supply chain: farmers and producers. There is no solution without them.
We welcome and support the statement of the Brazilian Coalition for Climate, Forests & Agriculture and the Brazilian Business Council for Sustainable Development. We are committed to working with responsible Brazilian companies to grow production without deforestation and to stamp out illegality. No multinational business can risk having illegal products in their supply chains. We would also encourage Brazil to not cede its position as both a leading agricultural exporter and a great environmental steward.
As global businesses we call for deeper partnership. Collective action is hard, but possible: responsive governments must work closely with conscientious businesses and pragmatic civil society partners to address the underlying causes and complex challenges of deforestation.
We believe there is a real value in the multi-stakeholder platforms that enable the different actors to come together to understand different perspectives and the trade-offs associated with alternative pathways.
In September, world leaders will meet in New York for the UN Secretary General’s Climate Summit. As business leaders we will attend to push for deeper systemic and transformational change. Fires from the Amazon to the Congo Basin to South East Asia will still be burning. The transition to more sustainable forest, food and land use systems represents an enormous opportunity that no country can afford to ignore or can do alone.
Brazil itself has shown over more than a decade that economic growth does not need to come at the expense of the forest, and it can continue to grow and develop its exports for agricultural commodities.
Of course, actions speak louder than words and we’re all in this together with a shared objective. Our business communities are committed to playing our part and call on supply chain actors, governments, civil society, and the financial sector to summon the collective will needed to balance the needs of people and planet.
Justin Adams, Executive Director – Tropical Forest Alliance (TFA)
Peter Bakker, President and CEO – World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD)
Nigel Topping, CEO – We Mean Business (WMB)
Halla Tómasdóttir, CEO – The B Team