Advancing U.S. leadership in international conservation through public and private partnerships and developing the next generation of Congressional conservation leaders
Gavin Neath CBE, Senior Vice President, Sustainability, Unilever
Deforestation continues to be an urgent environmental issue with severe social and economic consequences, including lost opportunity costs to the people whose livelihoods depend on the natural services of forests, degradation of biodiversity needed for pharmaceutical products, and loss of vast carbon sinks. Drivers of deforestation include clearing of trees for farmland and demand for palm oil, soy, timber, paper, and beef products.
Trends in population growth and rising GDPs will continue to increase pressures to provide commodities that lead to clearing of land.
Responses from both the public and private sectors are needed to successfully restrain rampant land clearing and the low-productivity agricultural practices that fuel the demand for farmland.
Unilever is combating deforestation through its commitment to source all its agriculture materials sustainably by 2020; stakeholder roundtables that establish sustainability standards; certification schemes; and its own sustainable agriculture code.
Even the world's largest consumer goods companies, when acting alone, can exert only a small amount of leverage to effect change within the total global commodities markets. The most effective means of land use reforms are enacted through large industrial coalitions. WWF has been instrumental in organizing roundtables of the largest stakeholders in soy, cattle ranching, and other commodities markets to develop and enact sustainable industry standards. Unilever works within the Consumer Goods Forum – a body that brings together global retailers and their international suppliers, with combined revenues of over $2 trillion, who have agreed to eliminate deforestation from their supply chains by 2020.
International governments have supported these industrial coalitions, and can further leverage their progress through programs that balance land use needs for food security, energy, and bio-plastics; investing in yield and productivity improvements in agriculture, especially in smallholder farms; empowering law enforcement to combat illegal deforestation; and enabling the use of degraded lands.
WWF has a comprehensive approach to tackling deforestation in the Amazon. Since 2002, WWF has been working with the Brazilian Government and other partners to launch the Amazon Region Protected Areas (ARPA) program – the world’s largest tropical forest conservation program. The ARPA system of protected areas and sustainable use reserves in the Brazilian Amazon has been key to efforts to slow deforestation. It is one of the best examples of a public-private partnership that is enabling us to achieve both sustainable land use and food security.
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