Corporate forest pledges forgotten

One in five corporate commitments on deforestation have become ‘dormant’, according to an analysis of 760 pledges.

US-based campaign group Supply Change has tracked commitments from 447 companies to end forestation destruction caused by the main agricultural commodities that drive this – palm, soy, timber and cattle.

It found that companies had published information for more than half the commitments made over the two-year timeframe examined, up from one in three the last time it reported in 2016.

However, one in five commitments had passed their target date or never had a deadline attached, and companies had failed to report on their progress, according to the organisation's latest report. One-third of firms had at least one commitment that fell into this category, the organisation found.

During a webinar organised by sustainability events company Innovation Forum, Stephen Donofrio, senior adviser at Supply Change, said: ‘It’s one thing to make a commitment, it’s another to hold yourself to it by reporting progress. Really, this is about appeasing stakeholders’ interest to assure them that commitments are alive and well and haven’t been placed aside.’

Anita Neville, vice-president of sustainability relations at palm oil company Golden Agri-Resources, said firms feared being persecuted. ‘When you see leading companies still getting hammered in the public domain for gaps that still have to be addressed in these ambitious policies, people get scared about putting their heads above the parapet.’

Hannah Hislop, senior global advocacy manager at Unilever, said: ‘Stakeholders should be aware that, if they ask a company to really lead on a particular issue, it’s difficult to lead on all fronts all the time, so almost by definition it could lead to lesser focus on other areas.’ She added that it was better to explain the reasons than hope that no-one notices a pledge has been missed.


Catherine Early is a freelance journalist.

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