A Zero Deforestation agenda is becoming the new normal for international business

The recent announcement by McDonald’s, which outlines its approach to combatting deforestation across its main commodity supply chains, is perhaps the most comprehensive environmental commitment of any major restaurant group. It sets an example for all global organisations in how they should be ensuring sustainability throughout their supply chains, and reflects how a Zero Deforestation agenda is becoming the new normal for international business.

It is encouraging that the sustainability agenda is moving from discussion into action. At the United Nations Climate Summit in New York last year, Asia Pulp & Paper Group (APP) joined brands such as Unilever, Nestle and Danone in signing the NY Declaration on Forests with the objective to end natural forest loss by 2030. The new agreement is historic not only for the scale of its ambition, but because it marks a shift in emphasis that sees governments, civil society and, crucially, the private sector, agree on a common commitment to tackle deforestation.

However, while there are best-practice examples of businesses developing Zero Deforestation practices, there is still clearly a need for much more to be done. A report from CDP, Deforestation-free supply chains: From commitments to action, identifies how some parts of the supply chain are lagging behind and that further action must be taken.

Although nearly 90 percent of businesses realise a commitment to deforestation-free supply chains is the first step in safeguarding against climate-related risks, almost two-thirds of reporting companies are currently unable to trace the origin of commodities within their supply chains such as timber, palm oil, soy, biofuel or cattle.

This lack of supply chain traceability represents a significant business risk. Not only must businesses understand where accountability lies if the link between commodities, deforestation and climate change is to be broken, but they must ensure sustainable practices are present throughout the supply chain if they are to protect long-term shareholder value.

We share CDP’s view that while there are certainly challenges ahead in getting businesses to move from commitments to action, there are opportunities, too. Businesses have the opportunity to build stronger supply chains, increase yields, enhance their brand reputations through educating consumers and mitigate the impact of climate change by putting a permanent end to commodity-driven deforestation.