By Emily Kunen
Nestlé Global Responsible Sourcing Leader, Palm Oil & Seafood
Forests are vital to life. They cover 30% of the earth’s land surface and play a vital role in ecosystems, as carbon sinks and as a source of biodiversity. Forests are also critical for billions of people, including many vulnerable farmers, who rely upon them for their livelihoods.
According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), an estimated 7.3 million hectares of forest are lost each year. When forests are cleared, species are driven to extinction, climate change effects worsen, and people’s livelihoods are destroyed – along with the natural ecosystems that we all rely on for the food we eat.
We must address deforestation, urgently.
In 2010, Nestlé committed to ending deforestation in our supply chain by 2020 (pdf, 205Kb). Since 2010, we’ve worked across our supply chains to make no deforestation a reality. We included a No Deforestation, No Peat, No Exploitation (NDPE) requirement into our Responsible Sourcing Standard (pdf, 2Mb), and mapped our supply chains to identify product origins and assess their deforestation risk.
While we have made progress, we still face challenges, many of which we will not be able to solve by ourselves. This is why, last month, we joined the High Carbon Stock Approach (HCSA) Steering Group.
As of April 2019, our supply chain is 77% verified deforestation-free for our top five commodities linked to deforestation risks. That figure will surpass 90% by the end of 2020. We continue to make progress by conducting assessments, sponsoring conservation initiatives, and engaging smallholders.
For example, in September we announced that, by the end of the year, we will monitor 100% of our palm oil supply chain using satellite technology. We’ll extend coverage to pulp and paper in 2019 and soya at a later stage.
Our ambition is to work throughout our supply chains to transform practices to address deforestation. However, when companies do not comply with our Responsible Sourcing Standard and show no willingness to improve, we will take decisive action to remove them from our supply chain.
At each stage of our journey towards no deforestation in our own supply chains, we have encountered new challenges. As we get closer to our 2020 target date, we face some real dilemmas.
One of the first challenges we came across in 2010 was a lack of common understanding on how to define forests and deforestation. This is where the High Carbon Stock Approach (HCSA) comes in. Building on a methodology developed by Greenpeace, The Forest Trust (TFT) and Golden Agri Resources, it distinguishes forest areas to protect, from lands with low carbon and biodiversity value that may be developed sustainably.
The approach allows for economic development, but also protects local community rights, community land use and livelihoods through the integration of Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) procedures. Nestlé was one of the first companies to include a no conversion of High Carbon Stock lands requirement within our Responsible Sourcing Standard. This has been a critical tool to help us implement our No Deforestation commitment.
Other challenges remain. One is how much we should focus upon our own commitment to no deforestation in our value chains, versus broader efforts to eliminate deforestation globally. Another is recognizing that achieving no deforestation is not just about preventing forest clearances, but also social issues – from human rights to the economic development of palm oil-producing communities, 40% of which comprise smallholder farmers.
Cutting out smallholders and vulnerable communities to address deforestation more simply and quickly in our direct supply chains would not only harm tens of thousands of livelihoods, it would also increase pressure on forests.
By engaging in programs like Rurality we are working to empower smallholder farmers in our supply chains, supporting them them to be more resilient and to produce responsibly.
Global consensus is vital
Given a lack of global consensus on how we should best respond to these challenges, we see the need for a new way of thinking, and a new platform to build consensus among civil society, producers, end users, and others. This is why we joined the HCSA Steering Group, which is tackling these tough issues head-on.
Our ambition is to help make the HCS Approach the norm in forest conservation. We’ll do so by bringing in our experience of working with smallholder farmers in diverse and complex supply chains, and by applying the tools and technologies we all need – to help make deforestation history.
Emily is Nestlé’s Global Responsible Sourcing Leader for palm oil and seafood