EU risks missing sustainable sourcing targets

Europe is still contributing to deforestation through trade in ‘forest risk’ commodities.

According to a report from IDH, The Sustainable Trade Initiative, large-scale EU imports of tropical timber, soy, palm oil and cocoa continue to result in forest destruction and degradation and the consequent environmental damage.

Titled The Data Speaks, the report says that businesses are still buying ‘alarmingly low’ sustainable, responsibly sourced commodities, despite EU government and business pledges to import these exclusively by 2020.

To hit this target, IDH urges business and government to implement nine ‘key actions’ to create more sustainable supply chains.  

The report reviews global trade in these commodities. Except for palm oil, only 30% or under were imported by the EU as certified sustainably sourced, with the figure for timber at just 28.5%.

Sustainable trade performance varied widely between north western and southern Europe. For example, 65-70% of the Netherlands’ primary tropical timber imports are responsibly sourced. In Italy and Spain the figures are estimated around 5-10% and 2.5-7.5%.

“Current EU progress is not enough,” said Daan Wensing, Director of the IDH Landscape Program. “It is dangerously behind when it comes to meeting responsible sourcing and no-deforestation pledges. We need urgent action from industry players and governments to jointly fight deforestation in supply chains, while securing economic development and livelihoods in producing countries.”

Research from the Global Forest Watch (GFW) reinforces IDH’s findings. It reveals that 3.6m hectares of tropical forest have been cleared since 2002, largely driven by agricultural commodity production.

However, according to a YouGov poll, commissioned by the Environmental Investigation Agency, Fern, Greenpeace and WWF, 87% of European consumers are demanding deforestation-free products.

IDH has been at the forefront of efforts to encourage corporations, producers, governments and civil society to introduce forest protection strategies, which also protect the livelihoods of local people.

IDH’s nine key actions to drive sustainable forest product trade are:

  1. Introduction of EU sustainable sourcing requirements for all commodities
  2. Development of industry association sustainable roadmaps, backed by government incentives and NGO input
  3. Implementation of mandatory reporting guidelines for businesses importing large volumes of commodities
  4. Identification of deforestation hot spots among sourcing regions to prioritise industry action
  5. Establishment of Verified Sourcing Areas, backed by incentives to drive transition to sustainable land use
  6. Mainstreaming of sustainable commodity production through government and private sector investment
  7. Direction of European commodity sourcing to deforestation hotspots to incentivise sustainable production
  8. Creation of government-to-government partnerships between the EU and supplier countries to grow capacity, strengthen enforcement and support land use planning
  9. Grow sustainable importing in non-EU countries by supporting sustainable production and through dialogue and knowledge sharing.

“Forest loss continues at an alarming rate,” concluded Daan Wensing. “The good news is that we have the partners and tools to fight it and, by pooling Europe’s demand for sustainable commodities from hotspot regions, the situation can be changed. Commitments matter. but stopping global deforestation and climate change will take more than just words – together, we need to turn pledges into action.”

IDH will present its findings at the International Sustainability Week of the Amsterdam Declaration Partnership (ADP) in Utrecht from 11-14 June. The ADP is a partnership between Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Norway, the Netherlands and UK promoting deforestation-free, sustainable commodities.

IDH was supported in producing The Data Speaks by, the European Palm Oil Alliance, Probos, ATIBT and the Netherlands’ IUCN National Committee.

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