Unilever is to partner with U.S. tech company Orbital Insight on a pilot project to trace agricultural commodities sourced, especially palm oil. It claims to be using geolocation data and satellite imagery to identify the individual farms and plantations supplying the palm oil mills in its extended supply chain. The pilot project will be tested out at palm oils mills in Indonesia and soy mills in Brazil, working jointly with its established supply chain monitoring projects.
Collected news links from external sources related to topics concerning the Book Chain Project.
Satellite images show there were 6,803 fires in the Amazon during July, a rise of 28% compared with same month last year. It might get worse in September as predicted by the Science Director of Brazil's Amazon Environmental Research Institute. President Jair Bolsonaro, who previously encouraged agricultural and mining activities in the Amazon, banned starting fires in the region in early July under pressure from internal investors.
A coalition of NGOs send an open letter to the Consumer Good Forum calling on them to act on their 2020 deforestation commitments
Ten years ago, the Consumer Goods Forum (CGF) made a commitment to end deforestation in member companies’ supply chains by 2020. As 2020 approaches, the companies will inevitably miss the deadline. An international coalition of NGOs called this out CGF members and relayed the following expectations in this open letter:
• Communicate a mandatory requirement ensuring suppliers comply with ‘No Deforestation, No Peat and No Exploitation (NDPE) commitments.
• Ensure human rights are respected and compliance with international standards of Free and Prior Informed Consent (FPIC).
• Establish comprehensive, proactive, and transparent monitoring systems that rapidly detect non-compliance across supply chains and require implementation of the High Carbon Stock Approach (HCSA) for agricultural development involving land-use change. Assessments should use the Integrated High Conservation Value (HCV)- HCSA Assessment Manual and be approved by the High Conservation Value Resource Network (HCVRN) Quality Review Panel before development
• Publish guidelines to address non compliances, including thresholds for suspension and grievance mechanisms
• Provide incentives and support to upstream suppliers to manage risk
• Publish public facing reports on progress
The Forest Trust have released a short video on their Respect programme which aims to address human rights issues in agricultural supply chains. It discusses some of the issues on plantations in Indonesia and in the manufacturing sector in China, and the worker-focused solutions they are implementing to tackle them.
Imazon, a group that tracks forest trends in Brazil, released data suggesting deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon may be on the rise after years of remaining at historic lows. The data shows that the deforestation during the month of June 2016 is the highest level recorded in a single month since November 2007. Forest clearing in Brazil often rises in dry years and when the national currency is weak, which makes agricultural exports more profitable. Currently, both conditions are present in Brazil. INPE, Brazil’s national satellite agency, provides official deforestation quarterly. The rise of deforestation trend in Brazil could be further confirmed after both INPE and Imazon release data next month.
Leaders from international indigenous and forest communities gathered in London to address the violation of human rights and land grabbing associated to the global trade of palm oil. A report last year from Fern showed that 18% of palm oil produced from illegal tropical forest destruction ends up in the EU. The community leaders are calling for the London Stock Exchange to stop trading with companies who act outside of the law as well as improvements in certification schemes in responding and investigating community complaints.
A recent study released by an initiative bringing together the UN’s environment, agriculture and development agencies warns that agriculture is the world largest driver for deforestation, responsible for perhaps 80 percent of deforestation globally. Misguided government subsidies aimed at helping farmers produce food more efficiently often end up leading to deforestation. Governments need to broaden approaches to identifying root causes of deforestation and changing the offending policies.
A new report from Forest Trends has found agricultural concessions in Cambodia provide entry points for destructive logging of natural forests, where some concessions are even located inside designated protected areas. This indicates a recent shift for Cambodian forests, which were previously being encroached by smallholder farmers. The landowners working these concessions are now much larger companies, opening access to previously inaccessible land. The report questions the levels of corruption and transparency within Cambodia - particularly at the point where concessions are identified and awarded – and calls for a logging moratorium while a full legal assessment is done on all designated forest land.
Scientists at UCL have defined three phases of global forest loss, the third of which we are living through now. They believe this third phase poses dangerous consequences if not correctly managed at a global scale. They believe the first phase happened over 6000 years ago when hunter-gatherers moved into tropical forests. The second phase saw the emergence of tropical agriculture. Despite altering the forest both of these phases maintained its overall health. The third phase – known as ‘Global Integration’ - has much greater impacts and is defined by distant decision-makers directing forest and agricultural land use. There have been positive moves, such as the UN’s New York Declaration of Forests agreeing to halt deforestation and restore 150 million hectares. But moves to expand the palm oil industry in to Africa are concerning and the study worries about the implications for the continent’s natural forests. The report calls for a renewed attention on forests at the Paris climate talks, where commitments to reduce deforestation and secure alternative finance are essential to success.
Archer Daniels Midland, the third largest global supplier of agricultural commodities and one of the world’s leading soy traders, is launching their Responsible Soy Standard. Under this new programme, yearly assessments will be conducted by expert third parties to determine if growers are complying with a number of environmental, legal, social and agronomic standards.
Despite soy production acting as a leading driver of deforestation across South America, palm oil has remained the priority commodity for companies in the fight against deforestation. While 117 private companies have pledged to reduce the impact of their involvement with palm oil, only 27 have done the same with soy. It is hoped that ADM’s commitment could lead to other organisations following their lead and expanding their commitments to deforestation across commodities.
Experts have warned, however, that although commitments like these have led to deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon, the problem is simply being moved elsewhere. Much of the conversion of natural ecosystems for soy cultivation now occurs in other areas including Argentina, Bolivia and Paraguay.
A report from Prince Charles' International Sustainability Unit has found that we are still some way from realising the full potential of tropical forests in stabilising global climate, agricultural yields, ecosystem services and local livelihoods. The report, Tropical Forests: A Review, argues that forests have such incredible potential because of their dual role as carbon sinks. Less deforestation means less carbon is released and as the forest continues to grow, more carbon is locked in to the biomass. The report also highlights the importance of tropical forests to regional and global rainfall cycles. This is particularly relevant for Brazil where a severe drought has impacted cities and major agricultural areas. Modelling has shown that deforestation in the Amazon and Congo Basin could affect rainfall patterns across Europe and North America. The report urges forests be prioritised as a significant solution as we approach binding international agreements on climate change.
Travis Perkins have been recognised for their efforts in eliminating destructive deforestation from their supply chain. The award for most improved company was given by CDP as part of their 2014 global forests report, ‘Deforestation-free supply chains: From commitments to action’. The report, set against the backdrop of September’s landmark New York Declaration on Forests, recognises ongoing improvement in removing deforestation from agricultural supply chains by 2020. Jez Cutler, head of group environment at Travis Perkins Group – and a guest speaker at our 2011 PREPS Seminar – said,
“We are delighted to be recognised as the most improved company in our industry in reducing reliance on forest risk commodities in the supply chain.
“This is a result of our continuous efforts to improve environmental excellence and sustainability throughout our organisation and our activities. We will continue to aim for further improvements and transparency as well as engagement with important organisations such as the CPD, who support this agenda.”
China has halted commercial logging by state firms in forests in the vast north-eastern province of Heilongjiang bordering Russia, home to much of the country’s timber industry, a move experts see as a significant step to curb over-exploitation of timber. The central government has allocated 2.35bn yuan a year to cover forestry workers’ living costs between 2014 and 2020. During the last century, warfare and unrest depleted and damaged the forests. More recently, economic growth has taken a further toll. There are concerns about the long-term ecological impacts if management of the forests does not improve with the region being an important agricultural zone and concerns about deforestation disrupting rainfall patterns.
A new report by Forest Trends, a US based NGO, found out that around five football fields of tropical forest have been illegally cleared every minute between 2000 and 2012, which losses have been driven by consumer demand for beef, leather and timber in Europe and US. The values of this trade in commodities including timber, leather, beef, soy and palm oil, accounting for $61bn a year. The majority of the illegal deforestation for commercial agriculture has been in Brazil and Indonesia. The local governments are lack of capacity to enforce laws to against illegal logging. Report found that licences and permits to cut the trees are often acquired through corruption. Authors believe that consumer countries in EU could have done more to tackle the problem. Strong regulations rather than voluntary actions is the better solution. The biggest concern for campaigners now is the spread of illegal deforestation to new countries in Latin America, Africa and Asia.
Deforestation in the Amazon has increased 28% in the 12 months through the end of July 2013. The rise is accountable by expanding farms and a rush for land around big infrastructure projects. Changes to Brazil’s forestry laws are also attributable to the increase, as well as high global prices for agricultural commodities.
Myanmar’s Ministry of Commerce has revealed that US$ 17 million worth of timber was recently found to have been smuggled from Myanmar to China via illegal routes avoiding official checkpoints along the road to Muse, Myanmar's border town with China. Most of Myanmar’s trade is with China and Thailand and with Chinese import restrictions on some agricultural products from Myanmar, local exporters find it difficult to get health recommendations from China for their exports, creating a growing illegal trade.
A recent study has revealed how recovering forests manipulate the process of nitrogen fixation to ‘heal’ themselves. Forests recovering from agricultural land use demonstrated exceptionally high rates of biomass accumulation, indicating very high rates of nitrogen demand. The results from the study indicate that nitrogen-fixing trees should be used preferentially in reforestation projects.
The Brazilian government released data that confirmed an increase in Amazon forest loss, with the majority of clearing taking place in Mato Grosso for agriculture. Reasons for the increase are thought to derive from weakening of the country's Forest Code, which limits clearing on private forest land, and agricultural exports have also become more commercially attractive for farmers.
Norway’s sovereign wealth fund will require companies in its portfolio to ‘to manage risk associated with the causes and impacts of climate change resulting from greenhouse gas emissions and tropical deforestation.’ The move comes after campaigners had targeted the fund for continuing to invest in companies associated with deforestation while the Norwegian government had committed $522 million to protecting the world’s forests. Questions considered in assessing company risk will include: disclosure on tropical forest footprint; commitment to international standards for sustainable production of agricultural commodities; and reporting on the implementation of its commitments.
Kimberly-Clark is investigating the use of plants which make more efficient use of land and resources without displacing food crops in its efforts to meet its ambitious goal of cutting the amount of wood fibre it uses by 50% by 2025. It is currently test marketing tissue products containing bamboo and is also exploring ways to use waste fibres that remain after agricultural crops such as wheat have been harvested.