Posted on 28 January 2016
WWF's Rod Taylor and CDP's Katie McCoy share their views.
The following is a Q&A with Rod Taylor, Director, WWF Global Forest Programme and Katie McCoy, Head of Forests, CDP, to get their views on the challenges and opportunities around halting deforestation and forest degradation.
1. Why is the issue of halting deforestation and forest degradation of common interest to WWF and CDP?
Deforestation and forest degradation cause irreversible biodiversity loss, diminish the prospect of reducing greenhouse emissions quickly enough to avoid catastrophic climate change, and threaten the rights and livelihoods of communities living in and around forests. Land-use choices that fail to recognise forest values thus pose huge risks to business and society. CDP and WWF have a common interest in encouraging companies to produce and source raw materials responsibly, so that their supply chains become “deforestation-free”.
Forests are a critical piece of the climate solution puzzle and without healthy, intact forests we will fail to stop runaway climate change. This has now been recognized in the Paris Agreement where the world has agreed to try and keep warming to 1.5 degrees. CDP motivates companies to disclose how they are measuring and managing their impact on the world’s forests through their use of the agricultural commodities driving most deforestation globally. This gives decision makers the data they need to change market behaviour.
2. What are CDP and WWF’s perspectives on what is needed to transform the supply chains of the future – what can companies, consumers and investors do about it?
Companies should commit to eliminate deforestation and forest degradation from their supply chains, and back this with clear operating procedures, third party verification and transparent reporting on progress. Likewise, investors can recognize deforestation as a risk and apply safeguards to ensure they are not funding activities that destroy or degrade forests. Consumers can look to eco-labels, such as the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) for assurance that the wood, palm oil or other ingredients in a product were sourced consistently with forest protection standards.
Establishing a time bound commitment to eradicating deforestation from their supply chains, across all the commodities they use, is a big first step companies can make. Importantly, this commitment should be followed up by action; commitments and policies are only meaningful if companies "walk the talk". Consumers can consciously consume – which of your favorite brands have a commitment to tackle deforestation and which of them are being transparent about their progress towards this goal? Investors should be reviewing (and some already are) their own policies when it comes to deforestation risk commodities and the companies they invest and engage with.
3. Why can certification act as a key delivery mechanism - what other mechanisms are there?
Certification systems such as those managed by FSC, RSPO, the Roundtable on Responsible Soy and the Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials all have safeguards on forest clearing and degradation. Deforestation-free initiatives can build on credible certification standards and their systems for stakeholder participation, auditing, chain of custody, control of claims, and handling of grievances. Additionally, stakeholder dialogue is critical to surfacing opportunities and challenges in reconciling global corporate pledges with national laws and spatial plans and the aspirations of local stakeholders (e.g. TFD's Understanding Deforestation-Free dialogue
Third party certification of commodities is one option companies have when meeting their deforestation commitments. In practice, leading companies use a combination of mechanisms to take them towards their goals. These include improving the traceability of their supply chain and support and engagement with their suppliers (including building the capacity of smallholder suppliers) as well as engaging with third parties (including NGOs) to progress further on their journey.
4. What are CDP and WWF’s perspectives on how to get companies to "walk the talk" – the issue of commitment versus implementation?
The recent spate of deforestation-free commitments is a welcome step but we need to see implementation and open reporting on progress against these pledges. WWF gives positive recognition to companies that show leadership and transparency, for example through our Palm Oil Scorecard
and the WWF Environmental Paper Company Index
. Companies that make weak commitments or fail to implement them face the risk of attacks on their brands from forest campaigners.
It is great that so many companies have committed to deforestation-free supply chains, but we absolutely need to see the action backing these commitments up. Transparency is a critical part of holding companies accountable to their commitments. Public disclosure and reporting have a clear role to play in enabling transparency for different stakeholder groups be they investors, NGOs or consumers.
5. What are CDP and WWF’s perspectives on the definition of deforestation-free and why does this matter?
The variety and ambiguity of current definitions of deforestation-free could result in a confusing array of claims and dubious verification systems. WWF is a strong promoter of processes to achieve greater consensus on what qualifies as deforestation-free, including greater harmonisation of forest safeguards across certification systems. This is needed to avoid wasteful investment in a plethora of new stakeholder platforms, standards and auditing systems.
There is no one definition being used by companies for "deforestation-free". In practice, common and strong definitions are those that capture the multi-faceted nature of the problem and include criteria on high carbon stock, high conservation value and detailed social criteria.