Synergies between REDD+ and Private Sector Supply Chain Commitment’s

Over the last years, an encouraging number of private sector companies have announced their intent to eliminate deforestation from their supply chains. By September 2015, more than 300 international companies have pledge to reduce or eliminate deforestation in the production, supply, and procurement of food and household products.

At the same time, more than 50 tropical forest countries have started to implement measures in the context of the international framework that encourages the reduction of deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+). Many of these measures receive support from donors, resulting in a multitude of bi- and multilateral REDD+ implementation partnerships. In the wake of the Paris Agreement, these partnerships are expected to increase in numbers and deepen in mutual commitment.

Following the adoption of the Paris Agreement in December 2015, all countries have to communicate mitigation actions (nationally determined contributions or NDCs) to the climate change secretariat. This marks a sharp contrast to the Kyoto Protocol which only committed developed countries to mitigation goals. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions from land use ranks high on many mitigation pledges of developing countries where land use emissions often make a large part of the country’s emission profile.

More than 130 private and public sector actors have also endorsed the 2014 New York Declaration of Forest (NYDF) that includes ambitious targets to end natural forest loss by 2030, with a 50% reduction by 2020 as a milestone toward its achievement. It is the first global declaration that takes an integrated look at protecting and restoring forests, transforming supply chains of major economic sectors impacting forests, and improving forest livelihoods, governance, and tenure of forests at a global level.

Meeting the goals of NDCs, REDD+ and the NYDF, among others, requires the ongoing resolve of their signatories. Adopting sustainability commitments is a lot easier, however, than achieving them. Data suggest that actual implementation of supply chain commitments is lagging, and governments are confronting barriers in implementing REDD+ strategies. The production of deforestation-free products and the reduction of deforestation in general is hampered by lack of land-use planning, weak law enforcement, and insufficient monitoring and accountability systems.  

The momentum created by the Paris Agreement has the potential to stimulate new REDD+ partnerships that also involve the private sector. Cooperation between private sector actors seeking to produce or source sustainable or deforestation-free commodities and governments seeking to reduce their emissions and meet international commitments can demonstrate that sustainable agricultural production and forest protection are mutually reinforcing. Alignment of efforts in pursuit of such complementary goals can benefit companies, communities, and countries.

Opportunities for partnerships and collaboration exist at various scales. Many countries have engaged in large-scale REDD+ programs that combine food security, reduction of rural poverty, and conservation of ecosystems. Such efforts offer private actors an opportunity to collaborate with governments in implementing supply chain commitments. In Paris during the UN climate conference, Unilever and Marks & Spencer made such a commitment, pledging to prioritize their commodity sourcing from areas that have designed and are implementing jurisdictional forest and climate initiatives. More information available in an interview with Mike Berry, Marks & Spencer.

Cooperation can also be specific to particular investment or implementation barriers.

  • Governance, in particular legal compliance and enforcement, is critical to achieving deforestation-free goals. For companies, it is essential that governments effectively manage land and ensure compliance with legal requirements. Such efforts remove incentives for illegal behavior and promote fair competition. To ensure governments prioritize their efforts on removing investment barriers, the private sector can present concrete suggestions to governments on policies and activities that are essential to enable investment.
  • The private sector can also support land use planning and titeling efforts with available data, maps, and registration systems. Companies can support governments in mapping high carbon stock forests and high conservation value areas (and vice versa), and can also cooperate with public agencies identifying hot spots for action to counter illegal deforestation and loss of high conservation value lands. In Côte d’Ivoire, for example, the government is partnering with private actors (Mondelez, OLAM) in defining a high carbon stock methodology to identify critical forests, outlawing their conversion to agricultural land, and supporting a monitoring and verification system.
  • Public and private actors can also cooperate in building capacities at the level of farmers and local institutions. Producers often already train suppliers already to ensure their compliance with social and environmental criteria. REDD+ makes available new sources of finance for such efforts. In Brazil, for example, through a public-private partnership—involving, among others, The Nature Conservancy (TNC), Moore Foundation and EMBRAPA—cattle producers are receiving support to implement more efficient practices that avoid soil degradation and allow more cattle to be raised on the same amount of land, reducing the need to clear additional forest.
  • Private entities can also collaborate with governments to identify synergies in establishing monitoring systems and encourage transparency (i.e., publication of monitoring data). Over time, as technologies and government data improve, ensuring transparency will help private entities identify instances of deforestation, establish links between agricultural operations and deforestation, and reduce costs by eliminating the need to develop separate systems. Brazil’s space agency (INPE) has made deforestation data freely available online, allowing authorities to crowdsource information on where abuses were occurring and translate this into strong enforcement. There are also a number of civil society initiatives, such as Global Forest Watch[1] which provides easily accessible deforestation data by country and, in some instances, overlays this with concession (by commodity) and certification (e.g., Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil) information.

All these activities—building networks for farmer outreach across large landscapes, strengthening extension services and capacities, implementing governance reforms, improving land titling and planning—have associated costs. As new sources become available, the private sector can cooperate with governments designing climate action plans and programs that can benefit for new sources of funding. Government financed programs, e.g. payment-for-ecosystem-services programs, can reduce the costs at the farm level to comply with private sector social and environmental standards, and public programs can support the collection and publication of data, as well as strengthening law enforcement.

In sum, there are an increasing number of areas of cooperation that will help companies achieve their sustainability goals and support countries’ need to lower emissions from land use.

If each partner plays its part, the sum of these efforts can put the planet on a path to food security and avert dangerous climate change.


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