As journalists looked on, a Panamanian farmer proudly displayed a bio-digester given him by the global foodmaker Nestle. The farmer demonstrated how the bio-digester converted animal waste into liquid fertilizer and gas for cooking, offering the promise of reductions in both greenhouse-gas emissions and local deforestation.
The year was 2014. Nestle had backed the New York Declaration on Forests for reversing forest loss. The company also had endorsed the CDP climate change initiative for minimizing and ultimately ending the deforestation resulting from poorly planned commodity-dependent supply chains.
As wtih Nestle, a number of startup supply-chain firms like San Jose, Calif., based Crowdz are doing largely unheralded work laying the foundation for more ecologically-sensitive supply chains. However, many other companies – including some of the largest in he world – still have a long way to go.
Recognizing the Causes of Deforestation
Fortunately, the trends are mostly in the right direction. The number of companies pledging to stop using commodities that cause deforestation has increased significantly over the past couple of years. This commitment, commonly known as a “zero-deforestation policy,” has already prompted widespread recognition of the products and processes that do the most damage to the globe’s embattled forests.
One of the most unexpected discoveries: among the most damaging commodities are the most widely used. A 2015 study by an Amsterdam-based research group determined that the production of beef was responsible for about 65% of the gross tropical deforestation between the years 2001 and 2009, while soy production accounted for 16% of all deforestation and palm oil and wood products combined were responsible for nearly 10%.
Much Work Remains
These improvements notwithstanding, much work – even basic educational work – remains to be done. A recent report from a London-based nonprofit research group discovered that most companies with commodity-dependent supply chains substantially underestimate their impact on the world’s forests.
Likewise, the Global Canopy Programme found that. in spite of the accelerating momentum toward ending tropical deforestation, many of the corporate pledges offered to date lack real willingness to make the hard supply-chain choices necessary to truly protect endangered forests.
Ultimately, emerging digital tools like Crowdz’s SMART Score, which dramatically enhances supply-chain visibility all the way to farm and forest, may prove to be one of the most effective solutions to this dilemma.