‘Deforestation-free’ product claims

Checking ‘deforestation-free’ product claims

One Planet participates in an international coalition of partners that is working for the UN Environmental Program to check if the ‘deforestation-free’ claims of the suppliers of some products like palm-oil and soya, are true. The great importance of this work is shown in this BBC-article “Amazon soya and beef exports ‘linked to deforestation’…Up to one-fifth of Brazil’s soya exports to the European Union may be “contaminated” by illegal deforestation, a study has found.”

Following on from the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Norway, The Netherlands and the UK signed the Amsterdam Declarations on deforestation and Sustainable Palm Oil to guarantee “deforestation‐free” sustainable commodities and responsible supply chain management. Allied to this, the UN Environmental Programme (UNEP) is working to identify which natural areas should be off‐limits and has started a project to check the environmental impact of products based on life‐cycle analysis. A key issue is how to guarantee that products do not cause deforestation somewhere in their supply chain, even indirectly by forcing other producers to transform forested land somewhere else. While the main product itself may appear to be deforestation-free, it may have harmful indirect ‘forest leakage’ effects up- or downstream in the supply chain. For example, the implementation of strict nature conservation in one area may cause crop intensification or changes in soil carbon in other areas or even in other countries. How can policy makers and purchasers take a wholistic view on the complicated cause and effect chains and see though the grey mists of producers and suppliers claims ?

UNEP therefore contracted One Planet together with her expertise partner 2.0 LCA in Denmark, to quantify the environmental impacts and trace the cause‐effect of the demand for bio‐based products like palm oil. The questions that were answered were:

  • What models are suitable to support claims of “deforestation free” supply chains or commodities?
  • Which criteria should responsible investors use to achieve a net deforestation reduction, by protecting natural land and avoid indirect Land‐Use Changes?

The results of this complicated work, that pulls together research and expertise from many sources, makes for fascinating reading. Countries rely heavily on international trade of commodities. Products are often supplied from very distant countries. A globalised supply‐chain contributes to the complexity of tracing the interlinked environmental impact of these commodities. One could say that some high-lifestyle countries that appear on the surface to be green and environmentally friendly, in fact cause excessive pressure and degradation in other countries by their imports. They simply ‘export’ the environmental and social impact of their diets and purchases.

One Planet and 2.0 LCA are proud to work for the noble and very important UN Environmental Program.

Contact:  Mark Goedkoop,  mgoedkoop@xs4all.nl  tel 06- 53 11 60 34 of Paul Heistein, paul.heistein@oneplanet.orgtel +31-6-52 40 19 47