An opportunity to build on and scale lasting, local solutions
As a mission-driven organisation working extensively in the responsible sourcing and production of various deforestation risk commodities, Proforest supports the EU’s initiative to tackle deforestation and forest degradation. We also welcome the broad stakeholder engagement and opportunity for technical experts, NGOs, academics, industry players and civil society to respond to the plans. Based on our experience working at the production level and with international supply chain actors, we recommend the following as means of further strengthening the legislation. Ultimately, we do not believe there is one silver bullet, and a smart mix that drives and rewards continuous improvement is essential.
Consider local context
Commodity production is a significant driver of deforestation in places, but it is rarely the sole driver. The EC should consider all of the context-specific and dynamic drivers of deforestation, such as high cost of land, local commodity trade or subsistence production, to ensure that proposed solutions are addressing direct and indirect causes of deforestation.
Support locally-owned interventions in production landscapes
Given the range of deforestation drivers and emergence of non-EU markets and growing domestic markets, there will need to be locally-owned interventions in producer countries, which would be further strengthened with EC support.
Promote positive action versus negative screening
There is a need for supply-side measures that actively support small producers and protect or manage the remaining forests in production landscapes. This is to avoid potential unintended consequences of a due diligence-only approach that could deter buyers and investors from engaging with suppliers and land stewards (communities, farmers or government agencies) based in “risky” origins.
Leverage change in “high risk”countries
Most commodity production, even in “high risk” countries, is deforestation-free (with a small percentage produced on recently deforested land). Companies should use their leverage from sourcing from those areas to improve performance and focus the strongest safeguards on frontier areas in producer countries, rather than cease sourcing from these jurisdictions altogether.
Size and scale for compliance
Full due diligence may not be feasible for smaller companies focused on local trade. While recognising the importance of shared responsibility of downstream companies (manufacturers and retailers), legislation could be introduced based on scale of production and proximity to international trade, for example.
Align with existing requirements and reporting
Build on current reporting requirements and action plans, such as commodity-specific certification schemes (RSPO), voluntary frameworks (“No Deforestation, Peat and Exploitation” (NDPE) Implementation Reporting Framework), or those required as part of other collaborative platforms such as the Tropical Forest Alliance and Consumer Goods Forum.
Do not overlook human rights
Compliance with laws relating to the protection of forests without reference to human rights risks or impacts, nor laws relating to workers’ rights and modern slavery, protection of human rights defenders and indigenous peoples, would be a huge oversight, so these must be included in any due diligence legislation.
In summary, we fully support the EU’s initiative to tackle deforestation and forest degradation. Legislation is needed, but a focus on both the supply-side and demand-side is essential in complex commodity supply chains. However, we also recommend a nuanced approach, requiring continuous improvement with time-bound progress towards zero deforestation, allowing for engagement, as well as capacity building, establishing trust and progress at all levels of the production and supply chain.