Tropical Forest Alliance supports EU regulation on ‘deforestation-laced’ commodities


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. Photo: TFA

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.

Writing in the Financial Times, director Justin Adams described a July European Commission (EC) Communication on stepping up EU action on deforestation and forest degradation as “ground-breaking”.

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 organisation.

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 bars, Mondelez 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”.

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