Part of the Food Policy Snapshot Series
Policy name: Due diligence on forest risk commodities
Overview: Supermarkets in the United Kingdom are no longer allowed to sell goods sourced from illegally deforested land.
Location: United Kingdom
Population: 68.1 million
Food policy category: Sustainable agriculture; food service
Program goals: To end support for illegal deforestation and reduce climate change.
How it works: UK food service businesses must prove that their supply chains are not linked to illegal deforestation, particularly in Brazil’s Amazon rainforests. Businesses must publish information showing where key commodities come from. Failure to do so will result in fines.
Commodities that may come from illegal deforestation include cocoa, palm oil, soy, rubber, and beef.
Progress to date: UK’s Department of Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) established a task force called the Global Resource Initiative in 2019 to discuss ways to make their supply chain more environmentally friendly. The task force, made up of representatives from businesses including McDonald’s, Tesco, the World Wildlife Fund, and the Green Finance Institute, met for the first time in July 2019.
Their final 14 recommendations, submitted to the government in March 2020, emphasized the need for due diligence in supply chains. The government passed the due diligence law in August 2020 and allowed 6 weeks for consultation with UK stakeholders. More than 99 percent of the 63,719 responses were in favor of legislation that would reduce deforestation. A summary of responses was published in November 2020.
Why it is important: Illegal deforestation in Brazil has become an increasingly serious problem since 2013. From August 2019 through July 2020, more than 11,880 square kilometers of the Amazon were cleared, a 9.5 percent increase from the previous year. The majority of deforestation in Brazil is illegal, executed by those wishing to make a profit off the land.
Trees absorb both carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases; when the trees are gone, those gases are released into the atmosphere, which results in global warming or climate change. Deforestation produces three billion tons of carbon dioxide each year, accounting for approximately 10 percent of global warming.
Climate change has a serious impact on global food systems. Increased environmental temperatures and more frequent natural disasters result in reduced agricultural yields and reduced nutritional quality of crops and livestock. Lack of high quality foods increases demand, and consequently, prices rise and food insecurity is exacerbated.
Efforts to stop deforestation are needed to protect the environment and our food systems.
Program/Policy initiated: The law was passed on August 25, 2020.
Point of contact: N/A
Similar practices: This is the first piece of legislation of this nature.
Evaluation: Evaluation has not yet taken place.
- Deforestation and Food: Your Questions Answered (World Wildlife Fund)
- Feeding Our Food: Agriculture and Deforestation (T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies)
- Pathways to Deforestation-Free Food: Developing Supply Chains Free of Deforestation and Exploitation in the Food and Beverage Sector (OXFAM)
- Solving Brazil’s Land Use Puzzle: Increasing Production and Slowing Amazon Deforestation (Land Use Policy)
- Brazil’s Amazon: Deforestation ‘Surges to 12-year high’ (BBC News)
- Climate Change: New UK Law to Curb Deforestation in Supply Chains (BBC News)
- Consultation on the Introduction of Due Diligence on Forest Risk Commodities: Summary of Responses and the Government’s Response (UK Government)
- Deforestation Explained (National Geographic)
- Deforestation: A Threat to People and Nature (World Wildlife Fund)
- The Effects of Deforestation (World Wildlife Fund)
- Global Resource Initiative Final Recommendations Report (UK Government)
- Global Resource Initiative Taskforce: Greening the UK’s Environmental Footprint (UK Government)
- Illegal Deforestation in Brazil Soars Amid Climate of Impunity (Science Magazine)
- Measuring the Role of Deforestation in Global Warming (Union of Concerned Scientists)
- UK Companies Face Fines for Illegal Deforestation Links Under New Law (The Grocer)
- U.K. Seeks to Ban Supermarkets Selling Goods From Deforestation (Bloomberg)
- U.K. Supermarkets Want Tougher Regulations to Stop Deforestation (Bloomberg)
- World-leading new law to protect rainforests and clean up supply chains (UK Government)