The UK government has launched a consultation on effectively banning goods produced from illegal deforestation, such as in the Amazon.
Organisations and individuals are encouraged to add their voices during the consultation period, which ends on October 5th.
Sir Ian Cheshire, chairman of Barclays Bank and chair of the independent taskforce behind the proposals, said, “I encourage as many people as possible to respond to this important consultation.
“Every day, British consumers buy food and other products which are contributing to the loss of the world’s most precious forests.
“We need to find ways of reducing this impact if we are to tackle climate change, reduce the risks of pandemics and protect the livelihoods of some of the poorest people in the world.”
The Department for the Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra), hosting the consultation, proposes that large businesses should prove they are using and selling items produced according to relevant protection laws – requiring due diligence on their part throughout the supply chain.
Ahead of hosting the UN Climate Change Conference, the UK must lead the way
The move comes just weeks after Tesco called on the government to ban food that causes deforestation, with CEO Dave Lewis asking the government to, “… mandate food companies, as part of its National Food Strategy, to introduce effective due diligence across supply chains to make sure all food sold in the UK is deforestation-free.”
If the proposals are adopted, fines, currently unspecified, would be imposed on businesses failing to conduct due diligence. They will have to publish where key commodities like, cocoa, rubber, soy and palm oil came from.
A Defra report says protecting forests is central to tackling climate change, with deforestation accounting for 11% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Agriculture causes 80 per cent of deforestation and most deforestation – up to 90% in some countries – is illegal. That destruction increases the risk of extreme weather events, drives biodiversity loss, and exacerbates the spread of infectious diseases, the report says.
Officials say that ahead of hosting the UN Climate Change Conference next year, the UK has a duty to lead the way in combatting the biodiversity crisis.
Today’s move follows the establishment of an independent taskforce the Global Resource Initiative (GRI) in 2019, lead by Sir Ian Cheshire, to consider how the UK could improve sustainability across international supply chains, slowing the loss of forests.
The initiative has gained further impetus as officials promote a sustainable economic recovery in the wake of the downturn caused by Covid-19.
The survey questions include:
- Should the government introduce legislation designed to make forest risk commodities more sustainable?
- Should it be illegal for businesses to use forest risk commodities in the UK that have not been produced in accordance with relevant laws?
- Should businesses in the UK be obliged to have a system of due diligence in place to ensure that the forest risk commodities they use have been produced in accordance with relevant laws?
- Should businesses be required to report publicly on their system of due diligence?
- Should the government be able to levy fines against businesses that use forest risk commodities that have not been produced in accordance with relevant laws?
- Should the legislation apply to larger businesses, over an employee number and turnover threshold, that use forest risk commodities in production or trade?