The Guardian reports that documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show companies and trade associations representing household brands have said that new requirements could be too onerous, raise costs, or may not work.
They have questioned the need for new regulations to protect forests overseas, which will come before parliament in the environment bill today.
The much-delayed bill will contain provisions to force UK-based companies to examine their supply chains in depth and ensure that they are free of links to land illegally deforested overseas.
It will be the first time such due diligence requirements have been introduced into UK law, and campaigners and some companies have welcomed the changes. Similar regulations are also planned in the EU.
Cargill, the US-based commodity giant that has been linked to deforestation in the Amazon, told the government it would cost more: “There is a risk due diligence will not sufficiently overcome [issues with traceability of goods] without harming supply chain resilience and efficiency, with associated cost impacts.”
The Seed Crushers and Oil Processors Association (SCOPA), which represents soy and palm oil companies, said in its response: “We are not comfortable with the threat of fines levied against companies contravening this law. Unless such contraventions could be defined in some ways as deliberate or knowingly, the danger is companies could be penalised despite doing all in their power to comply.”
The International Meat Trade Association (IMTA), whose members include the Brazilian meat companies JBS and Minerva which have been associated with deforestation in the Amazon, answered “don’t know” to a question in the environment bill consultation, which asked whether it should be illegal in the UK for companies to use forest risk commodities that came from illegally deforested land overseas.
The IMTA also questioned whether fines were needed, asking: “Has consideration been given to an incentives-based approach rather than one focusing on fines?”
The Agricultural Industries Confederation (AIC) said in its response to the threat of fines: “The process must be extremely robust because it could unnecessarily and unwittingly damage the reputation of a firm … This is especially true of larger firms, national or multinational firms, that are answerable to shareholders; it cannot be understated how damaging a government-issued fine or reprimand could be.”
The AIC, which represents farm suppliers in the UK, also warned of raised costs and called on the government to “recognise and work with existing measures and initiatives in place before anything else”.
The Chilled Foods Association (CFA) also questioned whether due diligence was needed, saying it was “already done where possible”, and said that public reporting was “already challenged internally by many member companies”.