On 1 December during the Lima-Paris Action Agenda (LPAA) Forests Day in Paris the Consumer Goods Forum co-chairs, Unilever and Marks & Spencer announced their  joint support of a “produce-protect” paradigm of rural developments through intends to prioritize commodity sourcing from areas practicing sustainable agricultural production, forest protection and protection of livelihoods.


To better understand what this announcement means for the companies and the partners involved, I sat down to talk with Mike Barry, Director of Sustainable Business (Plan A) for Marks & Spencer.

Marco Albani (MALB): Why do we need a unifying approach to sustainability?

Mike Barry (MBAR): The transition to sustainable rural development is moving forward, but not fast enough. Supply chain approaches will not go to scale without the help of governments of forest nations. Public policies will not work without effective engagement of businesses and farm sectors. Neither will succeed without the effective involvement of rural communities. International climate finance mechanisms such as REDD+ need all three working together to succeed. Currently, these strategies are operating in isolation, working towards similar goals but with different metrics, narratives and processes. All three are succeeding in some important ways, but also failing to deliver the positive incentives and support at the farm level that is needed to speed the transition to sustainable rural development.

MALB: Why is a landscape management approach important?

MBAR: It allows for improved allocation and management of land from a production or protection standpoint. It delivers productivity gains in land-use sectors, enables net positive environmental impacts and improved smallholder farmer livelihoods. It also helps to manage medium to long-term business risks and costs, building supply chain security within targeted landscapes, promoting consumer confidence. And compared to monitoring on a plantation by plantation basis, it will create simpler monitoring and verification of environmental impact and livelihood benefits.

MALB: How does this align with the current deforestation commitments of companies?

MBAR: This builds on and supports their current deforestation commitments. Most notably, the New York Declaration on Forests, a non-legally binding political declaration that grew out of dialogue among governments, companies and civil society, spurred by the Secretary General’s Climate Summit. For the first time, in September 2014, world leaders endorsed a global timeline to cut natural forest loss in half by 2020, and strive to end it by 2030.

MALB: Does the “produce-protect” concept mean that if certain jurisdictions get ahead of one another, companies will switch sourcing sites and abandon the previous area?

MBAR: The ambition must be to make improvements in all regions in terms of a triple win outcome: deliver rural development and domestic economic growth, while protecting and restoring forests on a large scale. It must simultaneously be inclusive in nature, and politically, economically, technologically, socially and ecologically savvy.

MALB: Have any jurisdictions been identified?

MBAR: In recent years, governments have come together in several large programmes that support jurisdictions (national or sub-national governments) in developing and implementing plans to reduce deforestation. Areas conducting initiatives that meet the criteria  expressed in the Consumer Good Forum statement , found here, will be the first prioritized for individual company sourcing commitments.

MALB: Is this approach for palm oil sourcing only?

MBAR: The approach is relevant to all local and national policies that protect forests and support livelihoods. This concerns many different crops, not only palm oil.

MALB: What risks does this approach present?

MBAR: The combination of donor governments, companies and financial institutions will deliver robust public-private partnerships. However, for it to be successful will require collaboration and a simultaneous bottom-up and top-down approach that includes traders, producers, forest country governments and others. And it must be fully owned by the relevant national and sub-national jurisdictions, building on and supporting country ambitions.

The Consumer Goods Forum companies statement is available here.


More relevant information:

TFA2020 Partners: The triple win of “produce-protect” , TFA2020

Protecting forests must become the norm in supply chains-prince, Thomson Reuters Foundation

COP21 Day 2 review: Deforestation top of the unofficial agenda, Edie Newsroom

COp21: Corporates join Governments in bid to stamp out deforestation, Business Green

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