What does “zero deforestation” really mean?

A couple of weeks ago we debated this point with 160 company, NGOs and other experts in Washington D.C. 
A brief summary of some key points from that meeting is here.
The point was raised by Tensie Whelan of the Rainforest Alliance. has published an article looking at the term, and the problems with it.
Here’s a couple of excerpts. 
“Firstly, though many major companies have signed up for these commitments, many other producers and buyers will not…
…Secondly, focusing solely on deforestation risks drawing attention away from other business practices within the commodities supply chain which may deserve equally urgent attention. 
…In addition, the use of “zero deforestation” as a catchphrase is problematic because there remains no clear agreement over what the term means…”
Here’s a bit more detail:
“Deforestation generally refers to the conversion of primary or secondary natural forest to less biologically diverse uses, such as agriculture or timber farming. On the other hand, selective logging of well-defined tracts of natural forest is essential for the livelihood of many communities, and should not be considered as deforestation. There is also confusion over the terms “zero deforestation” and “zero net deforestation,” which are used in similar contexts but refer to very different things. While “zero deforestation” refers to the prevention of any forest clearance, “zero net deforestation” refers to the replacement of logged forest with an equivalent area of new forest through replanting. However, it is difficult to ensure that the area that is replanted is equivalent to the area that is logged, and even more difficult to ensure that no environmental impacts or losses in biodiversity are incurred in the process. This makes “zero net deforestation” a much more complex and unreliable strategy.”
We’ll be debating this topic, and many others, with leading brands, NGOs, suppliers, traders, farmers and others in Singapore on September 28-29. Email if you’d like to be involved in the conference. 

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