Tropical forests continue to be felled at an alarming rate. 80 per cent of this destruction comes from conversion of forests to agricultural land for commodities such as beef, soy, and palm oil. 

The EU is the second biggest importer of agricultural goods which cause deforestation - much of it illegal. The EU’s imports of these 'forest-risk commodities' do not just drive deforestation, they fuel human rights abuses, from child labour to land grabs. 

For this reason, the EU should introduce mandatory sustainable supply chains, to ensure products that cause deforestation do not enter the European market. 

Over 440 companies have committed to free their supply chains of deforestation, but it has become increasingly clear that these companies cannot achieve this goal on their own. Seven European countries, through the Amsterdam Declaration Partnership, are also working towards deforestation-free, sustainable supply chains. 

In 2021 the EU is expected to table a corporate governance law requiring companies to execute due diligence across the supply chain, aiming for a do-no-harm approach, as well as specific legislation to tackle deforestation and human rights violations in supply chains. 

What do Fern and our partners want? 

EU laws that make it mandatory for companies to know the history of any agricultural commodity they import and to identify, prevent, and mitigate any negative environmental, social and human rights impacts.
To address the root causes of deforestation, the EU must develop partnerships with producer countries in a transparent and inclusive manner, including forest-dependent peoples in both negotiations and implementation.

What are we doing? 

The EU is working on an EU Action Plan on Deforestation, and Fern and our partners in the EU and tropical forested countries are campaigning to ensure that the plan includes robust regulations that stop products which destroy the world’s forests and violate human rights from entering the EU. These laws must also address the financial markets supporting these violations.

What are the causes of deforestation?

Agriculture is the main cause of deforestation. Eighty per cent of global forest loss is due to converting forests to farmland to produce agricultural commodities, such as beefsoy, palm oil and rubber which are largely exported. 

Agricultural deforestation happens because of increased global demand for such commodities, government policies to stimulate that demand, and trade and finance policies that facilitate their expansion and sale. 

Other causes include illegal logging, mining and poor forest management

Read more about deforestation

Are corporate voluntary commitments to halt deforestation working?

More than 450 companies in the food and agriculture sector have made commitments to stop deforesting and respect human rights. But it has become increasingly clear that these companies cannot achieve this goal on their own.

systematic analysis of 250 companies, 150 financial institutions and 50 national and subnational jurisdictions revealed that the rate of progress by most companies falls far below what would be required to meet the European Union’s (EU) international commitment to halt deforestation by 2020. What’s more: there is no evidence that these commitments are having the intended impact.

There are many reasons for this...

Read more about Company Promises

What is a supply chain?

A supply chain is the network of all the individuals, organisations, resources, activities and technology involved in the creation and sale of a product. A supply chain includes everything from the planting and growing of a product to the delivery of raw materials from the supplier to the producer through to its eventual delivery to the end user. 

Agricultural supply chains drive deforestation when forested land is cleared to grow crops. In fact, clearing land for agriculture is the world’s biggest driver of deforestation. Much of this deforestation also breaks national and international laws. And the EU is complicit in this destruction, between 1990 and 2005 an area of forest the size of Portugal was lost globally because of EU consumption of commodities grown on deforested land. The effects of deforestation often fuel human rights abuses, from child labour to land grabs, loss of biodiversity, depletion of soil fertility and, over time, reduced ability of trees to absorb carbon dioxide. Building a sustainable supply chain model is essential to ensure a fair production of goods, as well as a more durable and just relationship with the ecosystem.  

December 2022

Following eight years of campaigning by Fern, EU policymakers finalised the EU Regulation on deforestation-free products, which aims to prevent agricultural goods tainted by deforestation from being imported into the EU market. While this is a historic first, the law fails to include strong provisions to protect the land rights of Indigenous Peoples and local communities and fails to provide a route for victims to obtain compensation from companies who violate the law. 

September 2022

In a landmark vote, the European Parliament included measures to ensure that companies respect international human rights norms and standards on land rights. MEPs have listened to Indigenous Peoples’ call to protect their land rights, and companies would be legally required to respect them. The Parliament's vote was the final step before tripartite negotiations between the European Commission, Council and Parliament.

June 2022

EU Ministers adopted their position on the Regulation on deforestation-free products at the European Council. There were modest improvements related to land rights, but they would be easy to ignore in practice. In addition, the Council removed provisions on access to justice. 

November 2021

The European Commission released its proposal for a Regulation on deforestation-free products, which would require operators and traders to exercise due diligence before placing a number commodities and their derived products on the EU market. In response to the proposal, Fern released a briefing sharing our analysis and perspective. The proposal will now go to the European Parliament and Council whose role is to adopt the law.

May 2021

The Commission announces that one regulation on corporate accountability and another on forest specific due diligence would be released in spring. The regulatory scrutiny board gave a negative opinion of both proposals and they are now being revised with an expected release date of September.  

March 2021

Fern hosts a webinar and releases a report looking at how to enforce a due diligence-based regulation for forest risk commodities. They draw lessons from the enforcement of existing due diligence laws, including the European Union Timber Regulation, the EU Conflict Mineral Regulation, and the US Lacey Act. 

December 2020

A busy month as the European Parliament adopts MEP Lara Wolters’ report recommending that the Commission adopts a Directive on corporate due diligence and corporate accountability. In addition, Tropical Forest Alliance (TFA) members call on the Commission to go beyond voluntary certification and regulate deforestation-free supply chains. Finally, in response to a public consultation on imported deforestation, more than one million people demand a strong EU law to protect the world’s forests and other ecosystems. 

October 2020

The European Parliament adopts MEP Delara Burkhardt’s report urging the Commission to adopt a regulation to stop EU-driven global deforestation by ensuring that companies placing products on the EU market conduct mandatory due diligence. 

September 2020

The European Parliament adopts MEP Stanislav Polčák’s report urging the EU Commission to introduce a new law to ensure that products sold in the EU are "free from deforestation", as well as requirements for the financial sector to check their impact on the world's forests. The European Commission launches a sustainable cocoa dialogue with cocoa-producing countries. 

December 2019

EU Member States (under the German presidency) release their official reaction to the Commission’s Communication on stepping up EU action to protect and restore the world’s forests, requesting the Commission to “expeditiously” assess regulatory measures to “reduce the EU consumption footprint on land”.  

December 2019

Some of the world’s biggest chocolate manufacturers call on the EU to strengthen human rights and environmental due diligence requirements of companies in global cocoa supply chains.

August 2019

Images of the Amazon burning cause global outrage. Fern was among 26 NGOs who sent an urgent letter to EU leaders calling on them to end European complicity in the destruction. 

July 2019

The European Commission releases its long-overdue plans to combat global deforestation. Stepping up EU Action to Protect and Restore the World’s Forests came after five years of intense NGO campaigning. The Communication finally opens the door to the possibility of regulating supply chains to minimise the risk of deforestation associated with the EU’s agricultural imports.

June 2019

340+ civil society organisations call for the EU to prevent the worsening human rights and environmental situation in Brazil by suspending trade talks.

May 2019

A YouGov poll finds overwhelming support among the EU public for regulating products that drive deforestation, with 87 per cent of those polled indicating that new laws are needed.

March 2019

More than 50 NGOs and forest experts and defenders from around the world sign Fern’s Forest Pledge, asking future MEPs to pledge to promote policies to protect and restore forests worldwide.

December 2018

The European Commission publishes a roadmap to “step up European Action against Deforestation and Forest Degradation”. 

Who’s involved?

We work with the VOICE Network, the network of civil society organisations working on cocoa, Centre for Environment and Development (CED) in Cameroon and Centre for Sustainable Rural Development (SRD) in Vietnam.

In Brazil we work with civil society organisations such as ImazonAmazon Watch and Brazil’s Indigenous People Articulation (APIB).

The EU should only import timber and agricultural products that are produced legally, sustainably and in countries that respect communities’ rights to their land.

Learn about the products that destroy forests.

Find out how agriculture is responsible for about 70 per cent of all deforestation:

Soy Beef Cocoa Palm Oil

Read our latest blog on cocoa

Find out how the EU can ensure chocolate is free of deforestation and child labour:

Read about cocoa

Nicole Polsterer

Nicole Polsterer

Sustainable Consumption and Production Campaigner

Indra Van Gisbergen

Indra Van Gisbergen

Forest and Governance Campaigner

Julia Christian

Julia Christian

Cocoa and Forests Campaigner

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