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Biodiversity   |   Ethical business

Products from deforested areas 'could be made illegal'

Companies could be banned from using products sourced from areas of illegal deforestation under plans for a new law that aims to “clean up supply chains”.

Revealed today (25 August), the new plans would require larger businesses in the UK to publish where they source key commodities from, like cocoa, rubber, soy and palm oil, and show that they are produced in line with local laws protecting forests and natural ecosystems.

Businesses that fail to comply would be subject to fines, with the precise level to be set at a later date.

“We have all seen the devastating pictures of the world’s most precious forests being cleared, often illegally, and we can’t afford not to act as a country,” said Lord Goldsmith, the International Environment Minister.

“There is a hugely important connection between the products we buy and their wider environmental footprint, which is why the government is consulting today on new measures that would make it illegal for businesses in the UK to use commodities that are not grown in accordance with local laws.”

Deforestation is primarily caused by production of agricultural commodities. 

The news comes amid growing awareness of ‘indirect deforestation’ such as soy in animal food, as well as other hidden points in the supply chain such as commodity ingredients. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) released a campaign earlier this year to highlight how British consumers are contributing to deforestation without realising it.

Deforestation accounts for 11 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. The vast majority of deforestation is caused by the production of agricultural commodities and most deforestation – up to 90 per cent in some countries – is illegal.

The new plans are a result of the independent taskforce the Global Resource Initiative (GRI), which was set up in 2019 to consider how the UK could ‘green’ international supply chains and leave a lighter footprint on the environment.

Chair of the taskforce Sir Ian Cheshire said: “Every day, British consumers buy food and other products which are contributing to the loss of the world’s most precious forests. Starting a discussion on how changes in UK law could help us all to reduce our global footprint.”

Ruth Chambers, from the Greener UK coalition, said: “This consultation is a welcome first step in the fight to tackle the loss of our planet’s irreplaceable natural wonders such as the Amazon and in the pursuit of supply chains free from products that contribute to deforestation.

“The evidence linking deforestation with climate change, biodiversity loss and the spread of zoonotic diseases is compelling. A new law is an important part of the solution and is urgently needed.”


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