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Long read: Palm Oil, biofuels, sustainability and the EU. The state of play and the way forward

The European Union’s 2017 announcement of a planned phase out of the use of palm oil in biofuels was greeted with delight by many. Climate change activists, the domestic EU biofuels industry, some MEPs and anti-palm oil advocates all celebrated.

Unsurprisingly, it was met with anger by the governments of Indonesia and Malaysia, the countries likely to be hardest hit by this action.

Since the measure was announced tempers have, if anything, become more inflamed, with trade wars threatened. But how did we get there, and how might inclusive, development-focused and science-based approaches to the issue move the debate forward?

In this article Tobias Webb and Dr Peter Stanbury offer some thoughts. We suggest an approach to palm oil that fits into our previously defined “Collaborative Development Governance” framework, as previously outlined here.

For readers short on time, you can find a 1000 word version of our analysis here.

(This article is part of a series designed to help move thinking forward on important issues facing business and society. For our recent cocoa manifesto, click here, smallholder agriculture, here, and on climate change issues, go here.

Reputation meets regulation

Though now at the centre of an international row between the EU on the one hand and Indonesia and Malaysia on the other, the planned palm oil phase-out partly stems from the rather prosaically-named Renewable Energy Directive (known as RED II).

This 2018 measure, which builds on 2009 predecessor, is intended to help the EU deliver its commitments on climate change. As well as increasing the EU’s target for the use of renewable energy to 32% by 2030, RED II also introduced a specific target for biofuels. Under this new commitment, 14% of fuel used in EU road and rail transport must come from renewable sources.

Mongabay noted in March 2019 that:

“The so-called delegated act marks yet another step by the European Union (EU) to curb the use of crops that cause deforestation in transportation fuel, over concerns that their production contributes to global carbon emissions and thus exacerbates climate change.

But the phase-out doesn’t mean a ban on palm oil in biofuels. EU member states will still be able to import and use palm oil-based biodiesel, but it will no longer be considered a renewable fuel or be eligible for the attendant subsidies.”

Clearly whilst the use of palm oil has not specifically been banned, the EU has said its use would not be eligible to count toward this 14% target. In practice, this means that its use in biofuels will be phased out by 2030. The EU’s rationale for this step is that palm oil production was deemed to be significant driver of deforestation. This history is undeniable: a 2013 study by the European Commission study estimated that between 1990 and 2008, 5.5 million hectares (an area nearly twice the size of Belgium) of land were converted to oil palm plantations, including 3.1 million in Indonesia and 1.4 million in Malaysia.

There are some loopholes, but these are not enough to prevent the ongoing current political debates turning into something much more serious:

“Palm oil cultivated on unused land, which includes abandoned or severely degraded land, is also exempted from the phase-out, as is palm oil derived from improved yields. The delegated act considers palm oil produced under these circumstances as low-risk crops in the context of carbon emissions.

The act defines smallholders as farmers with less than 2 hectares (5 acres) of land. The Malaysian government, though, says that all farmers with up to 5 hectares (12 acres) of land should be considered smallholders.”

Nevertheless, the reaction from the governments of Malaysia and Indonesia has been furious. The Malaysian Plantations Minister Mah Siew Keong called the EU’s move “crop apartheid”, going on the say that “this is a clear case of discrimination against palm oil producing countries.”

The Indonesian Trade Minister Enggartiasto Lukita called the EU”s move misguided and unfair, telling the Indonesian Parliament that “we don’t want to be the target of a negative campaign all the time.”

Since then tensions have risen further, culminating, in December 2019, in Indonesia issuing a lawsuit at the WTO for what it claims is discriminatory action by the EU. In the words of Indonesia’s trade minister, Agus Suparmanto: “Indonesia hopes the EU will promptly change its RED II policy … and scrap the high-risk [of deforestation] … status it has given to palm oil.”

Although Malaysia has threatened similar action, it has so far not formally raised a case at the WTO. However, Prime Minister Mahatir Mohammad has spoken of the EU’s actions in strong terms, saying that, “trade wars are not something we like to promote but on the other hand it is grossly unfair for rich people to try and impoverish poor people.”

Malaysia has also expressed concerns that the EU could go further. Speaking in February 2019, the country’s Foreign Minister, Saifuddin Abdullah expressed the fear that the “end game” for the EU would be a total ban on palm oil, beyond biofuels.

For its side, the EU remains adamant that its position on palm oil is correct, and some even welcome the potential for a fight at WTO. “To be very honest, bring it on…!” was the reaction of one MEP, Dutchman, Bas Eickhout, speaking at the European Parliament last Autumn.

How can we move forward?

Clearly the debate has become highly fractious and increasingly acrimonious. Whilst this might make for good press headlines, polarised debate does not make for good long-term decision-making. Yelling at the EU is unlikely to bring about any meaningful change: the focus now needs to be on considering what to do for the best.

On the face of it, the palm oil sector has a potentially strong hand, largely because of the higher productivity of palm when compared to other plant oils. In 2018, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature published a significant report warning that because palm oil uses far less land to produce greater oil than soy, rapeseed or sunflower, the ban will lead to greater land-use change and drive up rates of deforestation in Latin America. In that region, growing land use change linked to soy demand and increasing production is today well documented.

However, what is also true is that palm oil faces strong headwinds in Brussels. Not only have Europe’s politicians lined up behind the current ban, but powerful domestic lobbies exist which are, to quote environmentalist Sir Jonathan Porritt, “seeking to protect EU-based producers of rapeseed oil and sunflower oil.”

One of these lobby groups, the European Renewable Ethanol Association clearly got exactly what it wanted with the biofuel ruling. Speaking a year before the ban, the Association’s head, Emmanuel Desplechin, issued a “call on the European parliament to translate its position into binding requirements, and limit the contribution of transport fuels from palm oil and its derivatives to the share of renewables in transport.”

Framing a solutions-based approach

Against this backdrop what practical steps might be taken to encourage the EU to nuance its long-term position on palm oil? We have written before about an idea we called “collaborative development governance”. Whilst this might be a slightly clumsy expression, the concept is clear. Firstly, it argues that durable solutions to development issues such as deforestation and poverty reduction require a comprehensive and three-dimensional view of exactly what the problem is.

Engaging with issues of such complexity may be difficult, but embracing it and understanding it is essential if any realistic answer is to be found. Secondly, solutions will only come about through proactively coordinated actions by a range of different stakeholders, including companies, government agencies and NGOs.

The situation stemming from the EU’s position on palm oil appears to be one in which collaborative action between the palm industry and the governments of Malaysia and Indonesia could drive real change. There are four main lines of approach that might be taken. These are as follows:

  • Demonstrate to the EU that their principal expressed concern – deforestation – is being taken seriously, and managed proactively. Deforestation has happened and much of it was damaging, but plantation land is not going back to virgin forest now. However, it needs to be clear that protections for remaining forest are robust.
  • Focus on the issue on which the EU’s position is palpably short-sighted – in its impact on smallholders related to its SDG commitments – and demonstrate how this issue could be turned into a positive for both sides.
  • Ensure that governance of the palm oil sector in Malaysia and Indonesia is robust. For the industry, this means showing clearly that it is doing all it can to address social and environmental damage. For host governments, legal sanctions need to be in place and properly enforced, and there needs to be coherence between ministries and regional jurisdictions.
  • Build on previous instances of managing commodity trading between SE Asia and Europe to find a workable way forward. Voluntary Partnership Agreements, used to address sustainability of timber, offer a tested governance mechanism that could be used also in this case.

Make moratoriums watertight and transparent

For the EU, it is clearly an issue of major concern that deforestation will continue because of the expansion of oil palm plantations. A research paper for the European Parliament in 2018 argued that “this process [of deforestation] continues in Indonesia, with half a million hectares of additional plantations every year …. Malaysia is adding around 80,000 hectares of plantations every year.”

Whilst not a direct response to the EU’s position, both Malaysia and Indonesia have sought to counter criticisms of the environmental damage caused by palm with moratoriums on the licensing of new oil palm plantations. Indonesia announced its ban in September 2018, with Malaysia following suit in March 2019. There were some slight differences in approach.

For example, Indonesia’s measures explicitly applied not just to new requests for licenses but also to projects that have obtained some but not all of the permits needed to begin operating; whilst Malaysia allowed some leeway to growers in the middle of replanting, or to those who have already bought land. Nevertheless, the clear aim for both countries was to take clear steps to dispel palm oil’s reputation as a driver of deforestation. So far, so good.

However, these moratoriums have been subject to some significant criticisms. In relation to the Indonesian measures Greenpeace, for example, criticised both their short-term nature and the lack of criminal sanctions for non-compliance. Similarly, the Indonesian Country Director of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, Tiur Rumondang, criticised the lack of any baseline against which to gauge whether further deforestation had happened. Tiur also raised the issue of the need for legal sanction – “we have to see that this government policy indeed has teeth”, she said.

It is extremely important that both governments respond to the criticisms made of the moratoriums, and so demonstrate that the fears clearly felt by the EU are misplaced. If, as is possible, moratoriums themselves are halted at some stage in the future, it must be transparently clear that any new plantations are not created as incursions into primary, high carbon stock or conservation value forests or other sensitive lands.

Clearly the issue of introducing legal sanctions against non-compliance with the terms of the moratoriums is a matter for the Governments themselves. However, in some other areas, there are steps that the industry itself might take to help demonstrate the increased robustness of the moratoriums, and of the environmental soundness of any future plantation developments.

A possible area to explore in this regard would be the comments by critics of the moratoriums that they were weak because of a lack of a baseline. In Indonesia, a driver of this is likely to be the significant backlog of land title certificates to be issued – an analysis of the problem by the University of Melbourne in 2018 estimated that there were some 60 million certificates awaiting issue. Given that between 2007 and 2011, the maximum number issued in a year was 5.2 million, this could represent a backlog which will not be eliminated for at least 12 years even if no further land titles are changed.

What this means for a plantation moratorium is that the picture of who owns what is unclear, and so a baseline is hard to establish. The challenges in issuing land certificates represent a challenge of governance: improving governance being one of the main foci of the EU’s development support to Indonesia, which amounted to some €500m in the decade to 2016. An issue that the palm industry might explore would be to support the Indonesian Government in reducing this backlog and so support the creation of a clear baseline of existing plantations.

Focus on smallholder farmers

A clear flaw in the EU’s ban is the effect that it will have on the large numbers of smallholder farmers who rely on palm oil for a significant chunk of their income. Moreover, at times some in the EU have appeared deaf to the potential impacts of the ban on smallholders. MEP Kateřina Konečná, who was the first to bring the motion to ban palm oil to the European parliament, is on record as saying that, “these smallholders are a slice of big national and international corporations who are responsible for deforestation.”

At present, in both Malaysia and Indonesia, smallholders make up about 40% of the total land given over to palm oil – a total across both countries of some 6.2 million hectares. The Malaysian Palm Oil Council estimates that there are more than 300,000 smallholder palm farmers in the country; and in Indonesia there are more than 4 million smallholders.

Unsurprisingly therefore, news of the EU’s move was greeted with dismay by groups representing smallholder farmers in both countries, citing impacts on farmer poverty and welfare. Malaysia’s Federal Land Development Authority (Felda) “strongly condemned” the EU’s move, saying that the ban on palm oil would trap smallholders in a poverty cycle since they rely on income from the commodity to improve standards of living for their families. Tiow Weng Theong, a spokesperson for Planters United, a smallholder farmer group, said of the ban that “we cannot keep silent and allow this to happen” arguing that, for small farmers, this industry is a major source of income and has helped eradicate poverty and enhance social mobility.”

However, from the EU’s perspective of wanting to reduce the environmental impact of its biofuels, smallholder farmers are a real problem: it is they who remain a potential driver of environmental damage. A report last year by research NGO CIFOR found that an increase in the conversion of peat soils in Borneo Island was caused mainly by smallholder oil palm expansion. From the perspective of potential environmental damage therefore, it is the smallholder sector, not large plantations where the risks lie. Given that the proportion of palm oil acreage farmed by smallholders expected to increase to 60% of the total by 2030, managing smallholder behaviours will be extremely important in demonstrating effective management of limiting deforestation and environmental degradation.

A key argument to deploy in this regard will be that the EU’s ban actually risks making worse the environmental damage caused by smallholders. According to Chain Reaction Research, “productivity of smallholder plantations is commonly lower than large company plantations. The low productivity is mainly caused by poor quality of seedlings, inadequate application of fertilizers, or aging plantations… Smaller yields reduce smallholders’ incomes and are therefore a major driver of expansion into forests and peatlands.” By reducing farmer incomes, the EU’s actions will actually worsen these factors for small-scale farmers, thereby further reducing productivity, and driving the need to expand into new lands to maintain their incomes.

The industry therefore needs to find ways of reaching out to more of these smallholders to support them in making the necessary investments to improve productivity and thereby reduce the risk of deforestation and other environmental harm. Some plantation companies already work with smallholders to support them in replanting and improving productivity, and, as the Chain Reaction Research analysis cited earlier pointed out, smallholders supported by companies fare much better than their unsupported counterparts.

Palm oil company Golden-Agri Resources (GAR), for example, operates its Innovative Financing Programme for independent smallholders in Riau in partnership with banks Syariah Mandiri and BRI Agro. Under the scheme a farmer receives a compensation fee of IDR 500,000 per hectare (US$ 34) each month until replanted trees bear fruit (around 48 months).

An ambition should be to expand this type of scheme to as many smallholder farmers as possible. If this were done, then the deforestation risk associated with smallholder practices would be much reduced, and the lives of smallholder farming families would be greatly improved. Such action would therefore both further address the EU’s desire to limit environmental damage and deal with the issue on which Brussels’ ban is weakest, in its impact on smallholder farmers.

Strengthen governance within, and of the oil palm sector

In practice, enforcement of the plantation moratoriums, and improving the environmental performance of smallholder farmers are sub-sets of wider issues of governance issues in the sector. If the governments of Malaysia and Indonesia, and the palm oil companies are to be able to argue their case effectively in Brussels, being able to demonstrate robust governance will be extremely valuable.

The Governments of both Indonesia and Malaysia are clearly both trying to understand responsibility for environmental damage, and improve governance of the situation. However, at present the situation is messy, as is demonstrated by the impacts of Indonesia’s 2018 fire season.

A recent analysis concluded that both smallholders and “plantation companies” were responsible for setting fires to clear land for development. As a result, Indonesia is investigating 30 companies for their role in the fires. However, comments by Indonesia’s Environment Minister, Siti Nurbaya Bakar suggest that her Government see the problem as emanating primarily from outside the large plantations. “Most of past hotspots [are] located on the edges of concessions, outside of concessions,”  she is quoted as saying.

This position chimes with the personal experience of one the authors of this current article who was himself in Sumatra at the time of the 2018 fires: he observed that larger pulp and paper and palm oil firms selling to brands were desperate to prevent or extinguish fires, which often were on the borders of their own concessions. They were also largely successful, due to the huge investments put in place in key parts of Sumatra since 2015 by the two largest pulp and paper (and palm oil) companies in particular. The Governments need to reach clarity on these issues, and ensure those responsible for environmental damage are properly sanctioned.

With smallholders too, the collaboration proposed above is important, but so too will be credible enforcement of social and environmental standards, and funding of effective enforcement capacity. This is not an easy area to address. However, business can play a key role, and assisting with technical capacity where helpful. The experience of firefighting teams, and Fire Free Village programmes, are examples of where company efforts can add real and lasting value. Changing culture is as much a factor as technical expertise and resources.

Building on what works

Tensions between the EU and countries of SE Asia on commodity issues is not new: neither however, are imaginative ways to manage such issues to the benefit of all involved. An earlier row between Indonesia and the EU – this time around timber and timber-products – led to the creation of Indonesia-EU Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA). This is a legally binding bilateral trade agreement that aims to improve forest governance and promote trade in legal timber from Indonesia to the EU.

As with palm, the EU’s goal was to address deforestation, and had intended to do this with a ban on timber from Indonesia. However, the VPA avoided a ban by developing a mechanism for validating sources of timber. Under the agreement, the EU will only allow Indonesian timber products covered by the VPA to enter the EU if they are accompanied by a valid licence. Licensed timber is regarded as having met the requirements of the EU Timber Regulation, which prohibits EU importers and domestic producers from placing illegally harvested timber and timber products on the EU market.

The VPA is overseen by the EU FLEGT Facility (Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade), which was established in 2003 to reduce illegal logging by strengthening sustainable and legal forest management, improving governance and promoting trade in legally produced timber. The EU FLEGT Action Plan sets out a programme of actions that forms the EU’s response to the problem of illegal logging and the trade in associated timber products. The Facility is hosted by the European Forest Institute (EFI).

EU FLEGT claim this mechanism has worked well for over three years and it may provide a model for the export of palm oil from Indonesia and Malaysia into the EU. Such an approach could have the advantage that the EU might not have to rescind its ban, but yet continue to import palm oil that met agreed standards in relation to environmental and social impact.

Conclusions – and a call to action

Palm oil has become a highly controversial product. The significant expansion of oil palm plantations has been a driver of deforestation, and the challenges faced by smallholder farmers means that the risk of further damage remains. Yet, palm’s greater productivity means that it is a more efficient crop than its rivals as a source of biofuels. In addressing the EU’s position, key for the industry and for the governments of the countries from which 85% of the world’s palm oil comes, is to take concrete actions to demonstrate that the product is not the villain it is currently portrayed as being by the EU directive.

Since plantations already exist, and are largely certified to international standards, and moratoriums are in place to halt further expansion, sourcing palm oil from large sites is unlikely to drive further deforestation. The scope for any doubt on this – challenges with the moratoriums – needs to be minimised as far as possible.

Moreover, there are clear steps which could be taken to work with smallholder farmers to reduce, if not eliminate, the risk of environmental damage they pose. These actions would have the additional effect of improving farmers income and welfare, thereby addressing the clear flaw in the EU’s ban.

Demonstrating robust governance across the industry will further demonstrate that the EU’s fears are misplaced. Finally, by building on initiatives such as the timber VPA it would be possible to find a middle-ground which both respects the EU’s position on environmental impact in theory, but which, in practice, might allow the use of palm oil in Europe’s biofuels into the future.

However, in the longer run there might also be a bigger win available. We have suggested that the best way to proceed on this issue is through collective action between palm (and other adjacent industry sector such as pulp and paper, which often have palm divisions) companies and the governments of Indonesia and Malaysia. But what if the process also – over time – also engaged different parts of the EU as well?

Since the very beginning of the sustainability journey, demand-side pull has been a fundamental driving force. Be that consumers wanting to see child labour eliminated from clothing supply chains, or regulations such as the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act forcing addressing issues of graft, it is the demand side which has been a clear force for reform.

It seems likely that “demand-pull” regulations such as RED II will be central drivers for change in the future. However, these things can sometimes be criticised as being somewhat simplistic, blunt tools. As we have seen the biofuel regulation disregards the greater productivity of palm oil when compared to other plant oils, and the fact that the deforestation it causes is largely historic. It also focussed on environmental issues at the expense of the impact on smallholder farmers.

Were the EU therefore to be engaged in the process suggested above, it would be possible to demonstrate how demand-pull measures – in this case RED II – could be made more nuanced and focused. Through collaborative engagement between the EU, host governments and the industry, it may be possible to develop regulations in ways which are both sensitive to the realities on the ground, and which balance the needs of different environmental and social agendas. This will not only reduce the temperature of the debates on these issues, but ultimately make a greater, more durable impact in addressing key issues of sustainability and development.

Practical recommendations

In the light of the above, the palm oil  industry (and this could include pulp and paper firms too) has a clear course of action it can pursue. Ideally, given the urgency of the issues, it needs to do so as soon as possible. The key steps are as follows:

  • Decide where to start: Malaysia and Indonesia are both large, complex countries, and the realities of the palm oil sector will vary from location to location (see addendum below). It would not be realistic to seek to address the challenges outlined above across both countries from the start. A pilot location should be selected from which clearer data can be derived, and models for action developed that can then be applied elsewhere.
  • Fund an independent political economy analysis (PEA) of palm in the selected location: Despite the significant efforts that have gone into sustainability of palm oil, there are still issues that require further investigation, in particular in relation to the role of smallholders, and differences in practice in different locations. A PEA would enable exploration of these, and other issues discussed above. It could also look more widely, for example, at how work being done around pulp and paper plantations could be leveraged and built on. APRIL’s Production/Protection work is an example of this.
  • Develop an initial action-plan: The PEA can be used as a baseline for the industry to formulate an initial plan of action to improve the conversations on palm with the EU, and to develop a process to drive durable sustainability in palm.
  • Convene a working group: As noted above, the intention for this process is that it be collaborative. At the same time, it also needs to make progress, and therefore needs to be based on a ‘coalition of the willing’. A working group of representative but open-minded stakeholders should be formed to test the plan developed. Initially these discussions would be informal and off the record, so that they are credible and inclusive. This process would include the all willing stakeholders including the industry, relevant government representatives and others.
  • Improve the initial plan: Based on the deliberations of the working group, the plan can be reworked as needed, and used as the basis for engagement in a series of roundtables in Brussels, with the objective being to further road test ways to engage and areas of progress.
  • Push forward action on the ground: The process suggested here will gain its legitimacy from being seen to push forward genuine change on the ground, for example around engaging with smallholders to improve their practices and so reduce their environmental impacts and improve livelihoods.
  • Roll out across both countries: These are not issues which can be addressed in the short term, but the lessons learned from the initial pilot location can allow gradual roll-out of the process across both Indonesia and Malaysia. Success will come from supporting a longer-term approach to 2025 to ensure this dialogue continues constructively, and that the actions on the ground are continued in order to provide on-going and solid evidence to the EU of palm oil’s legitimacy for use in biofuels.

Palm oil undoubtedly faces a challenge in making its case for legitimacy. The emotive public discourse to this point, and the undoubted political pressures in Brussels both provide a significant headwind.

Nevertheless, the reality of palm is much more complex than its critics would wish to portray it. There is a need to remove the heat from the debate, to focus on facts and practical action. If we are to meet the SDGs, drive poverty reduction, encourage enforcement and most vitally, meet the climate challenge as demand rises for plant oils, this process must begin as soon as possible. The risk is delay: what is proposed here is clear action.

As mentioned at the beginning of this article, we suggest an approach to palm oil that fits into our previously defined “Collaborative Development Governance” framework, as previously outlined here.

Addendum one:  A way to move forward on reform in the Indonesian oil palm sector:

Indonesian natural resource industry, in this case both pulp and paper and palm actors in Indonesia, should come up with a plan, which is frank about the history, legacy, and challenges Indonesia carries but lays out a clear template for the successful mix of production and protection (environmental and social), is clear about the unintended consequences of withdrawal (total destruction of what’s left), and puts it out as a means of calling for pan industry collaboration. This of course flies in the face of inter-company competitiveness (and loathing) so will be an uphill battle. However, if endorsed by, or at least accepted as worthy by a range of stakeholders, then there miht be some positive movement.

This process could be kick-started by a respected third-party convening industry actor to talk about the wider problem and share the white paper as a possible map and means of getting everyone on the same page. In this way Indonesia might just find a ‘whole country’ private sector driven means of successfully marrying economic development with massive, landscape scale restoration – itself funded by that economic engine. Such an effort would go a long way to demonstrating that Indonesian business is taking these issues very seriously indeed, and reflect well on, and inform, conversations in Brussels and elsewhere.

Addendum two: 2020: The year to show a united front on enforcement again bad actors

Latest research clearly shows larger natural resources firms have much to gain by presenting a more united front around what needs to be done to enforce zero-deforestation, within national regulations. Sourcing companies are all anxious to remove such rogue actors as detailed below in new analysis by Chain Reaction Research (CRR). This can, and has, taken more time than it should. But 2020 is a ‘marker’ year and one in which the need to actively encourage inter-state action on enforcement and push for it either publicly/behind the scenes is clear. Improving enforcement of governance by collaboration is not easy, but there are examples of where business can contribute to capacity building. Companies can also actively encourage government to government engagement and support practical mechanisms, as mentioned earlier in this article. For a report on the possibilities of corporate contributions to institutional capacity building in developing nations, click here.

February 2020 research by CRR notes that:

”…ten palm oil companies were alone responsible for approximately 39,500 hectares (ha) of deforestation and peat development in Indonesia, Sarawak (Malaysia) and Papua New Guinea in 2019. This total amounts to roughly 44 percent of all deforestation detected within known oil palm concessions in these regions last year (90,000 ha).

CRR, a respected research outfit, well read by investors and business, concludes that “…what is certain is that the same companies continue to clear forests and peat: Four of the top 10 deforesters in 2019 were also among the top 10 in 2018, with no change among the top two deforesters. Eight out of the top 10 deforesters for all of 2019 were also identified by CRR in August 2019 as being among the top deforesters in the first six months of the year. Five of these companies remain in supply chains of companies covered by NDPE sourcing policies, highlighting that these trader/refiners and consumer goods companies are still falling short of securing deforestation-free supply chains.”

Top Deforesters of 2019 (Details on each can be found here)

About the authors:

Dr Peter Stanbury is Principal of The Frontier Practice ( . He is an international development expert, with a particular focus on economic development of rural communities. Connect with him here.

Tobias Webb is founder of Innovation Forum, a business conferences, and publishing, facilation and advisory company based in London. Innovation Forum hosts the annual sustainable landscapes and commodities forum each year in London.  Connect with him here.