‘Deforestation-free’ supply chain promises have barely had an impact on deforestation in the Amazon

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According to the researchers, more companies need to make and implement zero deforestation supply chain commitments to significantly reduce deforestation and protect various ecosystems.

Corporate pledges not to buy soy produced on deforested land after 2006 reduced deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon by just 1.6% between 2006 and 2015.

This is equivalent to a protected area of ​​2,300 km2 in the Amazon rainforest: barely the size of Oxfordshire in the UK.

The findings, made by tracing traders’ soybean supplies back to their source, are published today in the journal Environmental Research Letters. The work involved a team from Cambridge University, Boston University, ETH Zurich and New York University.

The researchers also found that in the Cerrado, the tropical savannah of Brazil, zero deforestation commitments have not been effectively adopted, leaving more than 50% of soy-friendly forests and their biodiversity unprotected.

Brazil has the largest remaining rainforests on the planet, but these are being rapidly cleared to raise livestock and grow crops, including soybeans. The demand for soy is increasing worldwide and about 4,800 km2 of the rainforest is cleared each year to grow soybeans.

The majority of soy is consumed indirectly by humans: soy is widely used as feed for factory-farmed chickens, pigs, fish and cattle. It also accounts for around 27% of the world’s vegetable oil production and, as a complete source of protein, it is often a key component of vegetarian and vegan diets.

By 2021, at least 94 companies had adopted zero deforestation pledges, pledging to eliminate deforestation from their supply chains. But the study found that many of these commitments are not being put into practice.

And the researchers say adoption of zero deforestation commitments is lagging among small and medium food businesses.

“Zero deforestation pledges are a great first step, but they need to be implemented to have an effect on forests – and right now it’s mostly big business that has the resources to do that,” said said Professor Rachael Garrett, Moran Professor of Conservation. and Development at the Institute for Conservation Research, University of Cambridge, co-lead author of the report.

She added, “If soybean traders actually implement their global commitments to deforestation-free production, current levels of deforestation in Brazil could be reduced by around 40 percent.”

Deforestation is the second largest contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions after the burning of fossil fuels. It also leads to the loss of diverse animal and plant life, threatens the livelihoods of indigenous groups and increases inequality and conflict.

The researchers say the supply chains for other food products, including the supply chains for livestock, oil palm and cocoa, are more complex than those for soy, making them even more difficult to monitor.

“If supply chain policies intend to help fight deforestation in Brazil, it is crucial to extend zero deforestation supply chain policies beyond soy,” said Garrett, who is also a professor of environmental policy at ETH Zurich.

A ‘soy moratorium’ was the first voluntary zero deforestation pledge in the tropics – by signing it, companies agreed not to buy soy produced on deforested land after 2006. But while the pledge was implemented in the Brazilian Amazon, most Brazilian soy is produced in the Cerrado, which is rich in biodiversity.

The researchers say their findings suggest that private sector efforts are not enough to halt deforestation: supportive political leadership is also vital for conservation efforts.

“Supply chain governance should not substitute for state-led forest policies, which are essential to enable monitoring and enforcement of zero deforestation, have better potential to cover different cultures, users of lands and regions,” Garrett said.

In 2021, the Glasgow COP26 Leaders’ Declaration on Forests and Land Use pledged to halt and reverse deforestation by 2030. It was signed by over 100 countries, representing 85% of the world’s forests.


Despite pledges, Brazil’s cattle sector is marred by purchases on protected lands in the Amazon Basin


More information:
Gaps in adoption and implementation limit the current and potential effectiveness of zero deforestation supply chain policies for soybeans, Environmental Research Letters (2022). DOI: 10.1088/1748-9326/ac97f6

Provided by the University of Cambridge

Quote: “Deforestation-free” supply chain promises barely had an impact on deforestation in the Amazon (2022, October 27) Retrieved October 27, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-10-deforestation -free-chain-pledges-impacted-forest.html

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