Forest 500 list: good (and bad) companies for the Planet

Dec 14, 2016 | written by:

We know it: deforestation is one of the major environmental problems. However, compared with the 7 billion people inhabiting the planet, are 'only' 500 the global players responsible for 40% of global deforestation (with the production and trade palm oil, soya, cattle products, and timber products). With the adoption of a lower environmental impact policies and practices, these big players could eliminate deforestation by 2020. Yet, this result is still very far away.

The complete ranking of the players involved, 250 companies, 150 investment funds and large banks, 50 countries and 50 organizations, was drawn up by the Global Canopy Programme, a think tank that deals with environmental issues and in particular with the protection of tropical forests, with the annual publication of the Forest 500 list, compiled by assigning a maximum score of five points to those who invest directly in the banning of global deforestation, and low marks to emphasize the lack of initiative. Started three years ago, the project will continue until 2020 with the aim of showing actions and results implemented by the 500 players in the fight against deforestation.

2016 results were released by the report Sleeping giants of deforestation, but no good news on the horizon: 2020 deforestation goals are unlikely to be achieved and the main reason is a lack of commitment and concrete actions. While 11 percent of companies have established new deforestation policies or improved existing ones, 57 percent of companies in the Forest 500 have either weak policies or no policies at all.

Despite growing momentum in the number of commitments across key supply chain actors, the Forest 500 reveals that many of these commitments lack the teeth to make meaningful change in the sustainability of commodity production. Companies’ policies need to close loopholes that simply relocate environmental and social impacts to new geographies, or sequester them into less sustainable supply chains. The most encouraging progresses come from only three companies: Colgate-Palmolive, Marks & Spencer and the Norwegian consumer goods company Orkla Group strengthened their deforestation policies and achieved the maximum 5 out of 5 points available. A further three – Estée Lauder, Louis Dreyfus, and Tesco – improved their scores by one point or more in this set of rankings as well as in the previous year.

A greater push for change should come also from financial institutions by encouraging no-deforestation among the practices of their members, but by the Global Canopy Program report shows that only 3% is moving in this direction, including Deutsche Bank and BNP Paribas. Many however, 75%, continue to fund non-conscious customers to environmental problems totaling 64 billion US dollars in 2016.

We have a collective responsibility to act” commented Ellen Behrens, the VP of Corporate Responsibility at Orkla ASA. “The Forest 500 reveals that in order to preserve rainforests and fight climate change, it’s important that more companies establish no-deforestation policies with clear time-bound targets.”

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