For the first time, a list has been drawn up that details those companies and institutions around the world that have the power to theoretically eliminate deforestation, ranking them in terms of their commitment to saving tropical forests.
Deforestation is an urgent environmental issue, and thought to be responsible for approximately 15 percent of greenhouse gas emissions,according to statistics from the WWF. At the same time, reducing deforestation is possibly one of the most effective ways of slowing down climate change – with a recent study from Edinburgh and Leeds universities suggesting that a reduction in deforestation in the tropics could reduce carbon dioxide emissions by up to one-fifth.
Most of the degradation and loss of tropical forests is said to be caused by the production of just a few commodities: not just obvious wood products such as timber and paper, but also beef, soya, palm oil and leather. They’re things that are present in over half of the packaged goods found in our supermarkets, and while some consumers may try to make a difference by making informed decisions about what kind of products they buy, it’s in the global supply chains that support the circulation of these commodities, that the real power for change lies. Nowadays it is possible to produce these commodities sustainably, but who are the global players taking decided steps to do just that?
The Forest 500, a new ranking drawn up by Global Canopy Programme, may offer us some answers. Taking the concept of the Forbes 500 and giving it a distinctly green twist, they’ve assessed the public policies and commitments of 500 governments, companies and investors, ranking them based on the potential impact they may have on the conservation of tropical forests. The results are fascinating, not to mention surprising, and a little depressing too.
Of the 250 companies assessed, a mere six score top marks, while over 100 companies are rated only one out of five, or failed to score any points at all. Interestingly, multi-nationals such as Procter & Gamble and Nestle, who have often come under fire for unethical practices in other areas, scored highly on the list. Both companies use large amounts of palm oil in their products, but Procter and Gamble last year pledged to sourcing this sustainably, and Nestle took the same step back in 2010. So while it’s clear that some major businesses seem to be taking significant steps to improve the sustainability of the “forest-risk commodities“ that they produce and trade, many others are failing to make any visible commitments at all.
According to the official website, the Forest 500 ranking and analysis is to be repeated each year until 2020, "to help inform, enable and track progress towards this urgent global goal". While the ranking looks at public policies, rather than actual real-life implementation, and is therefore limited in its scope, it certainly helps bring some insight into the institutions that are responsible for deciding the future of the world’s rainforests, and with it, maybe the future of the Earth itself.