Food Companies Urge Britain To Toughen Up Over Deforestation

The food industry has been under growing scrutiny for its role in driving deforestation in countries such as Brazil and Indonesia. This has led Britain to drawing up legislation to force the sector to tighten oversight of its supply chains. Some 20 large companies welcomed the plans as a ‘step forward’ but said it’s not currently envisioned to be enough to halt deforestation.

Signatories included supermarkets Tesco, Marks & Spencer, Morrison’s and Sainsbury’s, food manufacturers Unilever, Nestle and Greencore Group, McDonald’s Corp and various livestock producers.

Britain’s move to introduce legal penalties for companies found to be complicit in deforestation aims to improve upon a range of voluntary, industry-led initiatives that have faced widespread criticism from environmental groups. Companies say they would prefer clear direction from governments that would create standard rules rather than navigating the existing maze of voluntary initiatives. Under the proposed legislation, large companies would have to report on how they source tropical commodities. The companies would also be banned from using products that are harvested illegally in their country of origin.

But the supermarkets and food distributors who signed the letter say the proposed new law has a major loophole: farmers in developing countries can often clear forests to grow cash crops for export without breaking any laws. The companies want the new British rules to apply to all deforestation – not just in cases where the destruction is illegal. Companies are also concerned that the legislation would not apply to smaller firms who may import considerable amounts of products, such as rubber, from sensitive forest regions.

We will see as time goes by as to whether this is the food industry showing genuine concern for the state of the environment and the planet at large or if this is just another big business virtue signal to the people who voted for the Green Party. We hope for the former.