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ClientEarth Communications

30th March 2020

Forests & trade
Forest Risk Commodities

Due diligence key to make supply chains more sustainable: report

A key taskforce bringing together business, finance and civil society has outlined how to reduce the climate and environmental effects of commodities in UK supply chains.

ClientEarth legal experts took part in working groups to help develop the Global Resources Initiative (GRI) taskforce report highlighting the complexity of global food production systems, and challenging government to create systemic and transformative change that ensures food supply while putting people and planet first.

The cross-departmental initiative, launched by the UK Government following a commitment in the 25 Year Environment Plan, was tasked with investigating how the supply chains of key commodities such as palm oil, soy, cocoa, pulp and paper, beef and leather, and timber can be fully sustainable.

One of the top-priority recommendations, unanimously supported by business, finance and civil society alike – calls on the UK government to bring in legislation which makes it mandatory for all companies and investors to conduct due diligence in their supply and investment chains.

ClientEarth Forest Programme Senior Manager Yulia Stange said:

“Given the growing awareness on the UK’s deforestation impact overseas, this report sets out how the UK can help create the right conditions for a transition to sustainable land use, in partnership with farmers, retailers and investors.

“We welcome the taskforce’s key recommendation for it to be mandatory for all companies and investors to conduct due diligence in their supply and investment chains, to meet these challenges and deliver human rights, environmental and economic benefits for people, companies, governments and the global economy.

“We need to ensure a level playing field so that agricultural and forestry commodities can be grown and traded in a way that is positive for people and planet.”

More than 200 participants from private sector, financial sector, NGOs, and researchers came together in a series of working groups and taskforce meetings between July 2019 and Feb 2020, seeking to identify ambitious actions to drive more resilient and sustainable food systems that avoid deforestation and environmental degradation overseas, while supporting jobs and livelihoods.

The independent taskforce was chaired by Sir Ian Cheshire, City financier and lead non-executive director of the government, and included businesses such as Cargill, Unilever, McDonald’s, Tesco, and BNP Paribas, as well as representatives from the Green Finance Institute, World Economic Forum and other civil society organisations.

The GRI is supported by the UK government’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and Department for International Development (DFID).

ClientEarth was invited to participate in working groups to help develop the report, as well as advising on human rights, gender and social equity issues – and participating through the UK Forests NGO Coalition. represented on the GRI Taskforce by Coalition Coordinator Anna Collins (HRGSE Steering Group Lead).

As this report is released, in the midst of a global pandemic, governments are rightly securing health systems and the economy, and businesses rightly focus on adapting to these unprecedented times.

Throughout, forests globally will remain vital for ongoing human health and livelihoods and in the coming months ClientEarth, together with Coalition partners, will seek opportunities to support the implementation of key recommendations in this important report.