Advocacy & partnerships for transformational change

To achieve transformational change and eliminate deforestation, we need to align business action with public policy, through collaboration and partnership.

Collaborating to achieve zero net deforestation

We are making good progress towards our zero net deforestation commitment and our sustainable sourcing targets. However, we cannot eliminate deforestation by ourselves. We need the wholesale transformation of supply chains into more sustainable models. That is why we actively encourage other consumer goods companies on their deforestation commitments through collaborations such as the Consumer Goods Forum, Tropical Forest Alliance, Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, New York Declaration on Forests, Banking Environment Initiative and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development.

Many of these initiatives are multi-sectoral, and success will require that business, governments, civil society and the people who live and work in forested landscapes must work in partnership to achieve sustainable development while valuing and conserving forests.

One such example is the Tropical Forest Alliance 2020 (TFA 2020). This was created with the governments of Norway, Netherlands, UK, US, Indonesia and Liberia, alongside dozens of NGOs. The goal of the TFA is to eliminate deforestation from the supply chains of consumer goods companies. The initial focus is on palm oil, soy, paper and beef products.

A key focus is in South East Asia, where palm oil is increasingly covered by no deforestation commitments but implementation remains a challenge, particularly engaging smallholder farmers. Latin America is another key area, where deforestation is primarily linked to soy and animal feeds. Africa is the final focus area, to prevent deforestation becoming an issue as the continent increases its production of palm oil.

Unilever is particularly interested in partnerships with other private sector players, governments and civil society at the landscape, supply shed or jurisdictional level. Such partnerships have the potential to deliver significant win-wins: better traceability for companies, improved yields and incomes for smallholder farmers, reduced pressure on tropical forests, and increased investment for state or local governments.

Corporate commitments tell only one part of the story. Just as important are the roles of government and civil society. To get to scale we need to align business action with public policy, through partnership and collaboration.

In September 2014, increasingly ambitious private sector and government commitments to tackling deforestation culminated in the New York Declaration on Forests (PDF | 27KB). The Declaration, which was launched at the UN Climate Summit in September 2014, pledged to halve deforestation by 2020, end it by 2030, and restore 350 million hectares of degraded forest. This is an area roughly the size of India.

The Declaration was endorsed by over 175 entities: countries, states, provinces, companies, indigenous leaders and NGOs. Private sector leaders, including Unilever’s CEO Paul Polman, set out what their respective sectors can do to end deforestation, and what government actions and public policy frameworks will assist them. If all the commitments made in the Declaration are met, they would produce emission reductions equivalent to removing all the cars currently on the world’s roads.

Making global progress on forests & climate at COP21

The COP21 Paris Agreement sent a strong message to the international community about the importance of forests. All countries agreed on simple but strong language that operationalises forest protection.

The inclusion of REDD+ Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation as a standalone piece – Article 5 – in the final Paris Agreement sends a clear signal that the period of mass forest destruction is drawing to a close.

The outcome of COP21 in December 2015 also gives an excellent basis for public private partnerships to focus on converting entire jurisdictions (geographic areas in a country) to increase production while improving forest protection – what we call ‘production-protection’.

This approach is promising but not without challenges, as the Global Agenda Council paper on Better Growth with Forests highlights, therefore the solution models must be creative and nationally appropriate for transformational outcomes.

The ultimate aim is to create a “triple win”: to deliver rural development and domestic economic growth, while protecting and restoring forests on a large scale.

During the Paris negotiations at COP21 in December 2015, Marks & Spencer and Unilever announced an intent to prioritise commodity sourcing from areas practicing sustainable agricultural production, forest protection and protection of livelihoods, with support from forest and donor governments and other consumer goods companies. The model provides jurisdictions with the design, technical support and necessary funding to develop implementable plans, while creating a global community of purpose to pilot and create investment-grade replicable partnerships and solutions.

What we now need is for more sub national leaders and consumer goods companies to join TFA2020. This will allow all parties to come together via large bilateral and multilateral programmes to support jurisdictions (national or subnational governments) in developing and implementing landscape-level plans to reduce deforestation while putting smallholders and communities at the heart of the agenda.

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