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Unilever signals new sourcing approach to help eliminate deforestation

Today, at the COP 21 Climate negotiations in Paris, Unilever has joined a group of consumer goods companies (acting individually) to signal a willingness to prioritise commodity sourcing from areas that are pursuing comprehensive forest climate programmes.

The group recognises that we cannot have production of the commodities we all rely on without protecting the land, forests and people involved. Seven consumer goods companies, including Marks & Spencer and Unilever, have come together to support a ‘production protection’ paradigm of rural development. This was announced by Marc Bolland, CEO, Marks & Spencer in Paris today.

Known variously as ‘production protection’, ‘jurisdictional forest, climate and agriculture approaches’ and ‘place-based multi-stakeholder partnerships’, these approaches enable agricultural production and human development goals through increased productivity, better spatial planning and land restoration, while protecting and restoring natural forests.

“Many global companies, including our own, have made unprecedented commitments to eliminate deforestation from their supply chains. We are taking action but the private sector cannot succeed alone. We applaud the new political will governments are showing on forests today in Paris, with special gratitude to Germany, Norway and the United Kingdom for their leadership in supporting innovative partnerships with tropical forest countries,” said Marks & Spencer CEO Marc Bolland and Unilever CEO Paul Polman, co-chairs of the Sustainability Committee of the Consumer Goods Forum, a global coalition of 400 companies representing $2.5 trillion in annual sales.

Why is a landscape management approach important?

This approach allows improved allocation and management of land across a landscape from a production or protection standpoint. It delivers productivity gains within land-use sectors and enables net positive environmental impacts and improved smallholder farmer livelihoods. It also manages medium to long-term business risks and costs, building supply-chain security within targeted landscapes and promoting consumer confidence. It will create greater simplicity in monitoring and verifying environmental impacts and livelihood benefits, compared to monitoring on a plantation-by-plantation basis.

How does it align with companies’ current deforestation commitments?

The approach is building on and supporting the current deforestation commitments of companies, 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.

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