Food firms fail deforestation transparency test

Domino’s, Greene King, Dairy Crest, Aramark, Mondelēz and IKEA feature among a list of more than 350 companies continually failing to report on the impact their operations have on the world’s forests.

More than 1,500 companies, all deemed to have a significant impact on deforestation or to be susceptible to deforestation risk, were asked to disclose information on four forest-risk commodities: soy, pal oil, cattle and timber.

However, 70% failed to do so, according to the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), which has also listed the companies that have consistently failed to report their impact and exposure in the past three years.

“A large majority of major corporations are failing to be transparent about their impacts on global deforestation and many are taking inadequate steps to tackle it,” CDP noted.

CDP’s report, The Money Trees, shows how corporate transparency on forests (30% disclosure rate in 2018) lags behind other environmental issues such as climate change and water security (both 43%). This despite significant risks to business from deforestation, the ecological importance of forests and the role they must play in solving climate change, not to mention the heightened environmental concern among investors, buyers and consumers.

“For too long corporations have ignored the impacts of their supply chains on the world’s forests and have not taken seriously the risks this poses – both to their business and the world,” said CDP global director of forests Morgan Gillespy. “Businesses that want to maintain market share need to listen to the calls from their customers, investors and consumers – or they could face a backlash.”

A total of 306 companies disclosed forests data to CDP in 2018, reporting on their sourcing of timber, palm oil, cattle and/or soy and the actions taken to reduce deforestation in their supply chains.

Around a quarter (24%) of companies are either taking no or limited action on deforestation, for example by focusing on only one commodity instead of all commodities within their supply chain.

The data also showed that more than a third of companies are not yet working with their suppliers to reduce deforestation.

Companies also reported potential losses of US$30.4 billion (£24.5 billion) due to the impacts of deforestation risks, such as brand damage, regulatory change and physical impacts like forest fires and crop failures.

The data also showed that 29% do not even include forest-related issues in their risk assessments. However, among companies that do, 92% see substantial risks, suggesting that the business risks and financial impacts associated with deforestation are underreported.

Nearly 450 companies and more than 50 governments have pledged to end deforestation by 2020, but industry action to date has not been enough to achieve this, CDP said. Some companies have stated publicly that this deadline will be missed.

Meanwhile, global forest loss continues at a rate of 5m hectares a year or 15 football pitches every minute.

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