Land Use Guidance Could Help Stop Environmental Destruction

The recent assessment made by Forest Trends’ Supply Change project looking at the more than 500 public commitments made by companies to remove forest destruction from their supply chains, made for interesting reading. In summary, the report claimed current disclosure on how companies are getting on in creating deforestation-free products to be “insufficient” with quantifiable progress only being reported for some commodities, and not others. “Even among pledges whose target dates have already passed, companies have disclosed progress on fewer than half,” it said.

With forests covering a third of our land, they provide vital resources to humans and wildlife as well as raw materials for manufacturing. But since 1990, the world has lost the equivalent of 1,000 football pitches of forest every hour, negatively impacting on water cycles, biodiversity, soil erosion, and jeopardising arable land and our ability to feed a global population set to reach 9 billion by 2050.

Well-Intended promises to do something about the removal of our much-needed forests is one thing. To implement policies, track progress and take concrete action on the ground, is quite another. If it is not really known what impact a change in land use is likely to have on the environment and society, it is much harder for companies to understand the risk attached to their role in helping to cause the loss of trees. At least that is the theory.

So, the launch of what has been described as “groundbreaking guidance” has been warmly welcomed. The ‘Land Use Change Guidance: Accounting for GHG Emissions in the Supply Chain’, the work of Quantis, is the fruit of a pre-competitive consortium that includes more than 40 contributors, including those from private companies, NGOs, governments and the science community.

What has been created is a scientifically accurate reference document that helps companies account for the climate change impacts (or greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions) connected to their efforts to roll back deforestation, create sustainable forests or promote other types of land use. It is useful because, as more and more companies opt to set science-based carbon reduction targets, a formal methodology is needed – something that will act as a guide to embed land use-generated emissions in their corporate and product footprints.

“Organisations are pressured to take immediate action for the sustainable management of their supply chain,” says Jon Dettling, Quantis’ US director and project lead. “Yet industry lacked a streamlined approach to accurately account for these emissions, set reduction targets grounded in science, and communicate ongoing efforts. That is what this guidance sets out to change.”

Rather than being an official standard or certification, the guidance is designed to offer a reliable methodology for measuring impacts, both positive and negative. It includes 14 key recommendations, acting as a step-by-step approach for companies to measure and track their progress towards reducing or eliminating GHG emissions from land-based supply chains.

Now, to keep the guidance up-to-date, accurate and applicable, companies are being invited to start using it in a series of pilot programmes that will identify potential gaps and refine the methodology. A final public release will come during 2018.

Companies to have been involved in the creation of the guidance include PepsiCo, Danone, General Mills, Tetra Pak and Mars. The Sustainability Consortium and WWF are among the contributing NGOs.

With the management of forests and other land types often identified as contributing the most GHG emissions in any value chain, this is the type of guidance that could be crucial for any business relying on agriculture and forestry to maintain their operations.