Protect the forests by going zero deforestation

Forests provide homes and habitat for 80% of earth’s plants and animals, and around 1.6 billion people rely on them for essentials such as fresh water, food, shelter and clothing

Key Stats:

  • 13%: The percentage of companies taking steps to mitigate the risks of deforestation
  • $941 billion: the value of turnover in publicly listed companies is dependent on commodities linked to deforestation
  • 12%: amount of global greenhouse gas emissions can be attributed to deforestation

Forests are essential to life on earth. They provide homes and habitat for 80% of earth’s plants and animals, and around 1.6 billion people rely on forests for essentials such as fresh water, food, shelter and clothing. Forests also have an integral function in mitigating climate change by acting as carbon sinks. They absorb carbon monoxide that would otherwise remain in the atmosphere and further contribute to global warming. But forests are under threat.

Currently forests cover around 30% of the land area on earth, but this percentage is decreasing due to deforestation. Between 46 and 58 thousand square miles of forest are lost every year. Deforestation is particularly severe for tropical rainforests, with 17% of the Amazon having been lost in the past 50 years. If the rate of deforestation continues then in 100 years from now the world’s rainforests will disappear completely. Deforestation is also a large contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for around 12%.

The main causes of deforestation are the result of a small number of commodities. Palm oil, beef, pulp and paper, and soy are responsible for 70% of the earth’s deforestation. Around $941 billion worth of turnover in publicly listed companies is dependent on these commodities. If measures are put in place to dramatically reduce deforestation, these companies will have their turnovers put in serious risk. Given the high level of risk involved, it’s surprising that only 13% if companies are taking steps to mitigate the risks of deforestation.

To avoid the risks posed, and for the benefit of the environment and life on earth, companies should be adopting zero deforestation policies.

Big names show that zero deforestation is possible

To avoid the risks posed, and for the benefit of the environment and life on earth, companies should be adopting zero deforestation policies. Zero deforestation means that no forest areas are cleared or converted to different uses. This is different from zero net deforestation, which means that forest areas may be converted to other uses or cleared, as long there is an equal area of replanting. These two terms are often used as if they are interchangeable, but they’re not. Zero net deforestation is obviously better than just deforestation, but an area of newly planted forest is not the equivalent of an area of native forest, regardless of whether they are the same size.

Big names have already made the move down the path of zero deforestation. McDonald’s and Unilever are two examples of giant companies that have shown how it is possible to adopt a zero deforestation policy and remain profitable. Companies can take steps to remove commodities linked to deforestation from their supply chains, and for future security and for the health of the environment this is change that all companies need to commit to.


Further Reading: Related Start Ups and Organizations


This series of articles has been prepared with the support of our partner Viessmann — they’re celebrating 100 years of their company this year (2017) and are actively involved in positively shaping the next 100 years.