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Deforestation pledges don’t cut it, report warns

Companies are struggling to make good on public commitments to remove forest destruction from their supply chains, according to a new report.

Of 566 companies who were identified as having deforestation risk tied to the ‘big four’ agricultural commodities – palm oil, wood products, soy, and cattle – within their supply chains, 366 were found to have made coinciding commitments to shift to sustainable sources but companies have only reported quantifiable progress toward one in three commitments, according to a new report from Forest Trends.

Even among pledges whose target dates have already passed, the report revealed that companies have disclosed progress on fewer than half.

The report found that companies are most likely to make commitments toward palm oil, and timber and pulp. Of companies active in palm oil, 61% have adopted pledges, compared with only 15% and 19% of those companies active in cattle and soy respectively, a disparity Forest Trends describes as “alarming” since cattle production is estimated to cause ten times more deforestation than palm oil.

Large public companies are more likely to make commitments than small private ones, according to the report, possibly as a result of pressure and higher standards for disclosure from financial institutions.

“Ambitious corporate action is a critical prerequisite to achieving deforestation-free commodity agriculture,” said Forest Trends’ founding president and CEO Michael Jenkins. “But ambition alone is no substitute for accuracy and transparency, and commitments count the most when companies publicly disclose progress toward achieving them.”