December 27, 2018

Dear Colleagues,

The stakes were high at the 24th Conference of Parties (COP 24) in Katowice, Poland, particularly in light of the Global Carbon Project’s recent assessment that we are not on track to meet our 2030 deadline to reduce emissions enough to limit warming to two degrees Celsius. Although forests were not on the agenda, there were several discussions that could have a significant impact on forests:

  • All countries, for example, had negotiators provide input into the creation of the Paris Agreement “Rulebook”: unfortunately, while many of these rules were decided, guidance around international carbon markets and carbon trading remains incomplete.
  • A smaller group of 64 countries signed the Katowice Declaration on Forests for Climate, which calls for countries to conserve and enhance carbon sinks, such as forests.
  • The conference was also big for agriculture. The Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture (KJWA), launched last year at COP23, formalized how farmers can get involved in climate action and resulted in more discussions and side events bringing farmers’ voices to the venue.

While the COP 24’s purpose is to convene countries and ensure national and international climate action,  some of the calls for stronger climate action over the past few weeks have come from the private sector. Representatives from several large, multinational corporations such as Mars, Ikea, and BT Group Plc, criticized the Paris Agreement rules that negotiators were writing – particularly those regarding qualifying projects for carbon markets, and the $100 billion in climate aid funding pledged by richer countries – for being too vague. Many companies are seeking greater clarity about potential changes to government regulations, and what support and guidance they might expect from governments.

Accordingly, countries were not the only entities making commitments in Katowice; several dozen leading fashion companies - including Gap, H&M, Burberry, Adidas, Levi Strauss, and Puma - signed the Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action, which affirms the signatories commitment to take action to reduce the fashion industry’s carbon footprint. The Charter doesn’t mention deforestation specifically (the text is largely focused on reducing emissions from energy use), but it does commit to a 30 percent reduction in aggregate GHG emissions in Scope 1, 2, and 3 (Scope 3 emissions are indirect emissions in the value chain, including those from land use changes), and calls for increased transparency in reporting progress, sourcing materials with low-climate impact, and to empower climate action in the fashion industry supply chains.

The fashion industry has an enormous environmental footprint, not least because of its reliance on commodities that drive deforestation, including timber for packaging and fiber (fun fact: rayon is made from wood pulp cellulose), and cattle for leather. Many fashion companies already recognize this impact; 70% of the 30 companies that Supply Change tracks in the Apparel Retailers, Clothing, and Footwear sectors have made commitments to address deforestation from timber & pulp (17) and/or commitments relating to cattle (13).  Four of these companies specifically stated that they will reduce GHG emissions, and ten stated that they will achieve zero or zero net deforestation. The fashion industry has an important role to play in addressing climate and deforestation, not only in terms of sustainable sourcing, but also because of the major role it has in shaping world culture.

More ambitious corporate (and government) action to address climate impacts, from commodity-driven deforestation and other sources, is increasingly necessary. Recent reports released by SPOTT (see October 2018 newsletter) and the New York Declaration on Forests (see Recent News) have revealed that although zero deforestation commitments are being made by both corporations and governments, effective implementation has been elusive. Major obstacles to achieving zero deforestation commitments for both corporations and governments have included weak or nonexistent transparency, traceability, enforcement, and monitoring mechanisms. 

In the wake of COP 24 and recent troubling projections on deforestation rates and carbon emissions, non-state actors – particularly businesses and the private sector – have an increasingly significant role to play in global climate action. Meanwhile, Supply Change is continuing to refine and expand our reporting on company commitments to track not only progress towards achieving commitments, but also how companies are reducing deforestation and the on-the-ground impacts of their work.


More stories about changing supply chains are summarized below, so keep reading!

- The Supply Change team



Upcoming Events & Updates

Applications for the 2019 Kinship Fellowship
Every year, the Kinship Foundation selects 18 conservationists to become Kinship Fellows and equips them with the skills they need to implement market-based practices to solve environmental challenges. Conservation practitioners with at least five years of experience are invited to apply for the 2019 Fellowship. Successful applicants will receive a $6,000 stipend and month-long training from June 30 to July 31, 2019. Candidates can propose a range of conservation projects to work on as part of their fellowship, including supporting sustainable agricultural supply chains. Learn more about this opportunity here.



Recent News

RSPO levels up

In November, members of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) voted to adopt new, stronger standards that members must adhere to in order for their products to be certified as “sustainable”. While previous standards only banned deforestation of primary forests and peat forests less than three meters deep, the new standards ban all deforestation – including secondary forests and all peat forests – and also strengthen labor rights protections. These changes were made in response to growing pressure from consumers, corporations, and environmentalists. Environmental groups like the National Wildlife Federation expressed cautious optimism for this development while others, including the Rainforest Action Network and Greenpeace, expressed concern about the effectiveness of the RSPO’s enforcement and monitoring mechanisms and about the one-year transition period.
Learn more from Mongabay 


Palm oil’s beef with Iceland – the company, not the country

The anti-palm oil television advertisement released by British supermarket chain Iceland on November 9th made headlines after it was deemed too political to air. The banned ad generated enormous publicity and has now been viewed online more than 70 million times. Iceland’s advertisement and announcement that they were removing palm oil from their own-brand products sparked diplomatic tensions between Britain and Malaysia (a large palm oil producing country). Meanwhile, many environmental NGOs, such as the Orangutan Land Trust have expressed skepticism over the strategy to forego palm oil entirely, as alternative oils are less efficient and would require even more land conversion that would further threaten wildlife.  Nonetheless, earlier this year the European Parliament voted to ban palm oil in biofuels starting in 2020.
Learn more from The Independent


FGV scandal puts major companies in awkward position

Major palm oil producer FGV was investigated and subsequently suspended by the RSPO due to accusations of forced labor, human trafficking, unsafe conditions, and an assortment of other violations of RSPO’s environmental and social sustainability criteria. FGV supplies palm oil products to a cadre of big-name companies, including Cargill, Hershey’s, Mars, Nestle, PepsiCo, and Procter & Gamble, and these companies received sharp criticism from the Rainforest Action Network for their lack of due diligence in their palm oil supply chains. Hershey’s, PepsiCo, and Mars were among those that responded to these developments, and spokespeople for these organizations expressed concern and insisted that they were taking actions to increase supply chain visibility and working with suppliers to determine next steps.
Read more at Supply Chain Drive


NYDF 2018 assessment: get it together, world

The New York Declaration on Forests (NYDF) released its 2018 Assessment and the news is not good. Despite 190 governments, corporations, NGOs and indigenous groups endorsing the Declaration in 2014, progress on addressing deforestation has been slow and the world’s natural forests have continued to disappear at an alarming rate. The NYDF Assessment points to poor forest governance – a lack of adequate enforcement, monitoring, transparency, access to justice, and land tenure rights for indigenous people and local communities – as the biggest enabler of (largely illegal) deforestation, and a major obstacle to effective implementations of governmental and corporate zero deforestation commitments.
Read more at New York Declaration on Forests


Forest Trends CDP WWF GEF UNEP