The UK government has announced plans to clamp down on illegal deforestation by forcing large companies to clean up their supply chains.
The government is consulting on proposed ‘world-leading’ legislation which would prohibit larger businesses operating in the UK from using products grown on land that was deforested illegally.
Under the proposals, businesses would be required to carry out due diligence on their supply chains by publishing information on where key commodities such as cocoa, soy and palm oil came from. They would also be required to show that these commodities were produced in line with local laws protecting forests and other natural ecosystems.
The government says that 80% of deforestation is caused by the production of agricultural commodities and that the majority – as much as 90% in some countries – is illegal.
Businesses that failed to comply with the regulations would be subject to fines, ‘with the precise level to be set at a later date’.
International Environment Minister, Lord Goldsmith, said: “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.
“There has been a lot of progress already to make the UK’s supply chains more sustainable, but more needs to be done.
“We will continue to work closely with farmers, business and governments around the world to ensure that we can protect our vital forests and support livelihoods as we build back greener from coronavirus.”
Today’s announcement follows the establishment of the government’s independent taskforce, the Global Resource Initiative (GRI), in 2019.
With participation from companies such as Cargill, McDonald’s and Tesco, as well as conservation organisations, the GRI was formed to consider how the climate and environment effects of key UK supply chains could be reduced. The taskforce published its final recommendations report earlier this year.
Sir Ian Cheshire, the chair of the independent taskforce, said: “I’m delighted to see the government respond to one of the key recommendations of the Global Resource Initiative. Starting a discussion on how changes in UK law could help us all to reduce our global footprint. I would encourage as many people as possible to respond to this important consultation.”
The consultation will run for six weeks and seek views from UK and international stakeholders, with feedback to be submitted online or via post.
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