Thousands of products sold all over the world—including vegetable oils, meats and other foods, wood, paper, and medicines—rely on materials obtained from the tropics.
Unfortunately, some of the methods used to obtain these raw materials destroy or degrade tropical forests and produce carbon emissions that contribute to global warming.
The good news is that businesses can take a number of steps to ensure that their goods and services help preserve our climate and tropical forests — and you can help encourage these efforts by actively supporting businesses that work to go deforestation-free.
The Drivers of Tropical Deforestation
- The three primary drivers of tropical deforestation are the production of palm oil, wood and paper products, and meat, especially beef.
- Businesses in these sectors can play a meaningful role in significantly reducing tropical deforestation -- especially if consumers reward their efforts for doing so.
What Businesses Can Do to Go Deforestation-Free
What should you look for when evaluating whether a business is working to go deforestation-free? Businesses in different sectors can take specific steps to reduce tropical deforestation (see below), but in general you should look for businesses that take the following steps:
- Publicly pledge to become deforestation-free. Businesses should make a strong, clear pledge to actively work to ensure that none of the materials they are using or the products they sell drive tropical deforestation.
- Source, sell, and promote deforestation-free goods. Ensuring a strong market for deforestation-free goods is vital to promoting sustainable practices in tropical regions.
- Build transparent supply chains and maintain good relationships with suppliers. A commitment to zero deforestation means knowing the source of products and ingredients and ensuring that suppliers have the same deforestation-free values.
- Work with other organizations and roundtables. Businesses should determine whether there is a certification scheme or roundtable that addresses their deforestation-free values, which can be an easy way to ensure specific standards are met for their products. However, businesses may need to go above and beyond existing standards to ensure products are truly deforestation-free.
Accelerating the Growth of Zero-Deforestation Palm Oil
- Manufacturers should strive to use palm oil that can be traced back to deforestation-free sources--and consumers should reward companies who do so by purchasing their products.
- Businesses should work to strengthen the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), a group of stakeholders in the palm oil supply chain that have come together to develop and implement global standards for producing deforestation-free palm oil.
- In some cases manufacturers can switch to oils that have less impact than palm oil, such as sunflower or rapeseed oil, though purchasing responsibly produced palm oil is a better choice to encourage more sustainable operations.
Encouraging Sustainable Forestry Practices
- Businesses should know the source of the wood and paper they use and ensure that the products they sell and promote do not drive tropical deforestation.
- Whenever possible, products should be certified as having been legally and sustainably produced and procured. Two of the most rigorous wood product certification programs are managed by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC), though neither certification explicitly prevents the logging of primary forest, nor is there widespread adoption of either standard in the tropics. It is therefore important that businesses work with NGOs and other local stakeholders to support efforts to promote certification and ensure that wood is not coming from primary tropical forests.
- Busineeses should work to eliminate waste (through decreases in shipping, building materials, paperwork, and packaging); by recycling materials, which reduces the need for virgin wood; and by purchasing goods made from post-consumer recycled materials.
Reducing the Impact of Meat Production
- Businesses should work with their suppliers to learn whether their meat comes from the tropics, and if so, only purchase from those that have clear zero-deforestation policies in place.
- Deforestation-free meat products should be highlighted to consumers through prominent placement in stores and competitive pricing and specials.
- Companies that make products containing a mix of different types of meat should shift the balance away from beef and toward chicken and pork, which contribute far less to deforestation and global warming.