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Businesses to blame for deforestation say public

Businesses are most responsible for ensuring commodities like soya and beef don’t contribute to deforestation in the minds of the British public.

More than a third of people in Britain (35%) believe businesses are primarily responsible for ensuring that goods sold in the UK do not support the destruction of nature overseas, higher than the government at 32% and consumers at 11%, according to a YouGov survey commissioned by WWF.

The survey found “overwhelming” public support for tackling deforestation in UK supply chains, the charity said. More than two thirds (68%) of people supported setting a target date in law to eradicate all deforestation from UK supply chains, while over three quarters (77%) said they do not want the products they buy to contribute to deforestation abroad.

Food production is a leading cause of deforestation with areas of virgin forest, tropical savannah and other vital ecosystems cleared to create space for livestock and to grow crops, such as soya, which ends up in UK foods like chicken and pork via animal feed.

A new ‘Deforestation Fronts’ report, released by WWF earlier this month, found that an area of forest totalling 43 million hectares – almost double the size of the UK – across key global hotspots has been wiped out in just 13 years.

The charity said it was developing a new ethical sourcing tool aimed at helping brands, manufacturers, retailers and the foodservice industry on their journey to eliminate deforestation, conversion and human rights violations from their supply chains.

It has also called on the UK government to strengthen due diligence clauses in its Environment Bill and establish a legally-binding target to eliminate deforestation and conversion in UK supply chains by the end of 2023. It also wants the bill to include a target to halve the UK’s global footprint from all consumption and production by 2030.

The current bill, which was this week bumped into the next parliamentary session, includes a due diligence obligation that would require businesses operating in the UK to prove that forest risk commodities within their supply chains are not linked to deforestation and habitat conversion.

WWF said the proposal is a good first step, but requires strengthening to ensure it helps level the playing field for companies already taking ambitious steps and enables action from entire sectors towards achieving deforestation and conversion-free supply chains.