Head of industry-backed anti-deforestation grouping backs EU due diligence regulation for agri-commodities in light of failure of voluntary corporate pledges
Tropical Forest Alliance is a global public-private partnership whose 100-plus members – governments, civil society and corporates such as McDonald’s, Kellogg’s and Walmart – commit to remove deforestation from supply chains.
The Tropical Forest Alliance
(TFA) has come out in support of proposed EU regulation to criminalise
commodities sold into European supply chains that are produced through
deforestation and said the organisation was ‘naïve’ to think voluntary action
alone could eradicate global forest destruction.
The TFA is a global public-private partnership whose 100-plus members – governments, civil society and corporates such as McDonald’s, Kellogg’s and Walmart – commit to remove deforestation from supply chains for palm oil, beef, soy and pulp & paper.
It was founded in response to commitments by major consumer goods firms and has
retained a focus on voluntary efforts, but Adams’ op-ed suggests a volte-face
has occurred at the organisation.
He argues that “averting disaster
requires transformational, rather than incremental, action”, and conceded that
“the idea that we would ever eliminate deforestation with voluntary corporate
action alone was naive in the extreme.”
The EC Communication included a
proposal to assess regulatory measures to de-link EU commodities consumption
from global deforestation, which Adams said was “unprecedented”.
Recognising that nearly half of
deforestation for agri-commodities was illegal, Adams argued that EU action
“could be the key to preventing the increase in deforestation that many see
arising from the EU’s recently concluded Mercosur Free Trade Agreement.”
The TFA director suggested that
“if the EU were to require companies to do due diligence on products they place
on the market, the reckless importing of deforestation-laced products could
become a criminal offence.”
Adams’ support for EU regulation
reflects growing consensus that voluntary corporate pledges to eliminate
deforestation – including a 2020 target set by TFA members themselves – will
not be met.
In January, Adams
conceded that “despite my optimism, I know we [TFA members] will fall short
of the 2020 target” but added “let’s not dwell on it… Instead, let’s focus on
the way forward.”
The way forward was the subject
of the TFA Annual General Meeting in Colombia in May 2019.
“We need to confront the limits
of voluntary supply chain action by the private sector and explore what more
can be done to advance policy and strengthen regulatory regimes,” a TFA report
of the meeting stated. “Engaging governments in producing as well as
consuming countries is crucial for systems transformation.”
TFA partners also include the
governments of the UK, Germany, Norway, Indonesia, Brazil, Ghana, the
Democratic Republic of Congo, the United States, the Netherlands, and others.
Its corporate partners include
most of the world’s biggest producers, traders and end users of forest-risk
commodities. The Consumer Goods Forum – a network of 400 companies across more
than 70 countries with combined sales of €3.5 trillion – helped found the
TFA and Consumer Goods Forum
corporate members have previously expressed support for EU due diligence
regulation. In March the makers of Toblerone and Cadbury’s chocolate
International, called for binding EU regulation, saying “while there are a
lot of good voluntary initiatives we still think it would be beneficial to have
a binding law at EU level to provide a level playing field”.