Course:CONS200/2021/Corporate commitments to zero deforestation: Where are we at?

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What is Deforestation?

Deforestation is a process of removal of forested land[1] for other uses including agricultural croplands, urbanization, meadow lands or mining activities[2] etc. by humans. Estimated 49 million square km (18.9 million square miles) of forested lands are cleared before for croplands on the Earth [1]. Between 2015 and 2020, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations estimated that the deforestation rate was at 10 million hectares per year[3].

Slash-and-Burn Deforestation

There is a long history of deforestation. In eastern North America, half areas of forest were deforested back in 1870s. Since 1870s, the forest covers in eastern North America has risen, however, most trees are relatively young. Besides, there are few places in the eastern North America that remain uncut of old-growth forests[1].

In modern times, deforestation is occurring frequently and severely in the tropics, where tree diversity is greatest all over the world. A major cause of deforestation in the Amazon rainforest is slash-and-burn agriculture. As trees are burned, remained ashes can fertilize soils that is used for crops[1]. However, by early 21st century, those burn-out areas caused breakdown of local habitats and losses of biodiversity since burning tress out leaves stand to maintain deforestation state permanently[4].

What is zero deforestation?

Zero deforestation means to cancel all activities that are reducing forested areas. The commitments to zero deforestation seek to decouple agricultural production and forest loss in order to improve the prospects for biodiversity. Many multinational companies that purchase deforestation risk commodities recognize that commodity-driven deforestation is the main driver of global forest loss, so they have adopted the goal of eliminating or reducing deforestation in their supply chains. As negotiations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) discussed that decreasing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+) can have a crucial role on improvement of climatic problems since 2005. There is an interest to decrease deforestation globally. Gradually, many organizations such as international governments, enterprise groups and non-governments organizations manage to decrease deforestation. According to this, targets like "zero deforestation", "gross deforestation" or not specify all are set from these organization[5].

What does zero deforestation lead to?

Zero deforestation could enable companies to remove the forests that with low carbon or biodiversity but contain agricultural production potential, in order to exchange for low productivity lands's forest restoration or for the forests with restorations that may produce substantial production benefits. [6]

Examples of corporate commitments

As deforestation negatively affects the environment such as loss of habitats, increasing of Greenhouse gases, soil erosion and flooding and deconstruction of homelands, etc., lots of cooperates are committed to zero deforestation all over the world. Here are some examples of organizations that committed to zero deforestation below.

Forest Stewardship Council Canada (FSC)

FSC is one of the non-profit conservation organizations over the world. FSC sets relevant standards and regulations in order to protect the forests and biodiversity[7].

FSC provides many restrictions and requirements which ensures legal forest owners have ability to maintain their forest covers, structures, and biodiversity, etc. One of these strict requirements is that any types of deforestation is not allowed in FSC which owners need to sign zero deforestation commitment once they become certified. Besides that, natural forest areas cannot be converted to plantation, or other non-forest uses, or others that can cause forest ecosystem degradation in forests under FSC certification[8].

Oil Palm Plantation

Astra Agro Lestari (AAL)

AAL is second largest palm oil producer in Indonesia. This company has entered Indonesian plantation industry for more than 30 years. At present, AAL operates a total acreage of 286.877 hectare planted oil palm[9].

AAL has commits to zero deforestation in 2015 which the company aims to protect the forests covers and local communities from its supply chain. This commitment will have huge impact if it is implemented. Since AAL has enormous cover of developed plantations as well as undeveloped forests, much of these areas are considered as habitats of endangered species. Because of AAL has announced the environmental commitment, many groups and organizations started to work together to acceleration of protecting forested land and rights of indigenous peoples[10]


Caramuru is a company which is one of the main group in processing of of soy, corn, sunflower and canola. The company serve natural products customers from different regions of Brazil[11].

Recently, Caramuru and two soy companies have committed to zero deforestation in their supply chain. These three companies has made an agreement that they prohibit trading soy which grows on those deforested land throughout Brazil after August 2020. Their commitment not only influence the whole country to progress stop deforestation, but only does make differences and put pressures for larger international traders such as Cargill and Bunge to amplify the voice of environmental commitments[12].

Where are we at and what's next

Deforestation has increased over time, with forests in many parts of the tropics now reduced to isolated and often degraded fragments. Agricultural expansion and commodification are without doubt key drivers of deforestation and land-use change in the modern era, as short-term financial interests supersede the long-term interests of environmental sustainability, resource security and human well-being. Strongly involved in the negative impacts and associated risks, the same corporations can also, however, significantly influence turning the tide and implementing solutions, especially if they work in partnership with public institutions.[13]

Current corporate commitments successfully achieved globally and regionally

Calls for zero-deforestation commitments have received mixed reception among national and regional governments and among companies, but there are some notable success stories.

In 2009 in the Brazilian state of Pará, for example, nonprofits and the Federal Public Prosecutor’s office pressured meatpackers and their buyers to reduce illegal deforestation associated with their cattle use. As a result, JBS and three of the other largest meatpackers in Brazil committed only to source from cattle suppliers who are not associated with illegal deforestation or exploitation and who have registered their property under national government’s Rural Environmental Registry (CAR).[14]

The companies relied on different government agencies for meeting their commitments. The government’s National Institute for Space Research provided deforestation maps vital for the companies to monitor their suppliers. Similarly, the companies relied on lists of suppliers associated with exploitation provided by the Ministry of Labor and Employment for further screening potential cattle sellers. At the same time, the requirement that all suppliers for these companies register their land in the CAR has in turn has helped the regional and national Brazilian government expand this program, which is vital for implementing the National Forest Law. Ultimately, the establishment and implementation of the zero-deforestation cattle agreements and implementation of the National Forest Law in Brazil provides an example of mixed confrontation and collaboration ultimately resulting in reductions in deforestation.

Improvements for future commitments

The existing zero corporate commitments have the potential to be moderately effective in reducing deforestation within targeted supply chains and regions, but leave substantial room for improvement with regards to achieving global reductions in deforestation. ZDCs can have a greater impact on global forest conservation if they include zero-gross targets with immediate deadlines, clear sanction-based implementation mechanisms, and traceability to indirect suppliers. [15]Improvements to existing commitments are likely to hinge on simultaneous improvements in public governance that enable greater property level monitoring of compliance with deforestation cut-offs. Therefore, Much has been achieved and in a very short space of time. But more is needed. Here are the ways to enhance the implementation, effectiveness and impact of pledges. [16]

  • Agree on clear definitions and standards — what is a forest; what is deforestation, and what are acceptable credible and coherent standards for use across different commodities.
  • National and local governments to become more involved — since failure to address broader governance challenges may reduce the positive impact of private-sector zero-deforestation initiatives.
  • More corporate transparency and accountability — must become the norm for monitoring and reporting progress, and not just regarding zero deforestation commitments.
  • Support for smallholder empowerment — through capacity building and technical assistance, so that millions of small producers can become effective participants.
  • Civil society to continue to advocate for change — as consumers and global citizens, for corporations to take effective action.
  • Advocate for jurisdictional action in support of national goals — required to complement corporate supply chain initiatives, and helps to fulfill more inclusive, sustainable development criteria.
  • Include alternative business and financing models — that better take into account existing realities, and local systems of governance and tenure.
  • Invite broad stakeholder involvement — in the inclusive platforms that are clearly needed for progress, as no single solution can achieve the desired impact.

Limitations and practical problems implementing zero deforestation commitments

The limitation and/or the practical problem of implementing this policy mainly focuses on the followings:

  • limited impact of the policy itself;
  • shortcomings on national or international monitoring (i.e., lack of governance or lack of transparency in implementation);
  • intense land use on the remainder once the policy is carried out to protect some of the lands covered by valuable forests;
  • illegal activities due to economic shortage or lack of governance.

Examples of limitations

Many evaluations were conducted on the implementation of zero-deforestation commitment, and it was found that this movement still has a relatively small global impact due to the narrow range of coverage among products and services that have risks of deforestation, therefore, only a small amount of producers would actually have a chance to adopt this policy. Moreover, zero-deforestation commitments are a type of voluntary sustainability initiative, different companies define their own zero-deforestation commitment goals, so the commitment contents vary greatly, which created a lot of challenges for the assessment of commitment implementation or effectiveness. It is existing several effectiveness criteria for the 52 zero-deforestation commitments made by the Forest 500 companies according to the high risk of deforestation, but the companies are still deficient in some key aspects. In addition, the implementation is achieved mainly through certification programs rather than the biome-wide implementation in most regions, but certification programs have not been adopted by all producers, and there is a lack of third-party near-real-time deforestation monitoring[6]. Even if the policy is widely adopted, the supply chain is often lacking traceability due to too many intermediate procedures between producers and consumers, which makes it hard to verify the implementation of this policy[17]. For some countries, the government is not able to enforce the policy due to the existence of economic shortage or insufficient manpower[18].

Examples of practical problems

Under this commitment, countries tend to conserve forests identified as high conservation value forests (HCVFs), high carbon stock forests (HCSFs) or forests on tropical peatland, which leads to more pressure on lands does not fall into these categories, especially for those who are suitable for agricultural development[19]. Also, criminal activities and conflict between government/corporate and people are still a problem in some regions[18].


In this wiki page, our group talks about the Zero Deforestation Commitment(ZDC), our main focus is on the definition and the progress of ZDC, and also some of its limitations. The purpose of zero deforestation is to balance deforestation and reforestation and to maintain or improve the biodiversity of the ecosystem. ZDC is a global, voluntary commitment, involving multi-stakeholder from the governments to large corporates to community groups. For no doubt the voluntariness brings problems in monitoring and implementation, as well as the problems in land usage, they are solvable in the long term by re-modelling the market.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Pimm, S. L. (2020, March 24). "Deforestation". Encyclopedia Britannica. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  2. "What Is Deforestation? Definition, Causes, Consequences, Solutions". youmatter.
  3. "State of the World's Forests 2020". Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
  4. "Slash-and-burn agriculture". Encyclopædia Britannica.
  5. Lake, Sarah; Baer, Elizabeth (May 04, 2015). "What Does it Really Mean When a Company Commits to "Zero Deforestation"?". World Resources Institute. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  6. 6.0 6.1 Garrett, R.D.; et al. (January 2019). "Criteria for effective zero-deforestation commitments". Global Environmental Change. 54: 135–147 – via Elsevier Science Direct.
  7. "Who We Are". FSC Canada.
  8. "Deforestation". FSC Canada.
  9. "Company Profile". Astra Agro Lestari.
  10. Gaworecki, Mike (September, 21 2015). "Second largest palm oil producer in Indonesia commits to zero deforestation". Mongabay Environmental News. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  11. "Caramuru". Caramuru Alimentos.
  12. Mano, Ana (January 16, 2021). "Brazil soy firms commit to zero deforestation from 2020". Reuters.
  13. Pasiecznik, Nick & Saveninje, H. & Orshoven, C. & Bock, J. & Pacheco, Pablo. (2017). Key issues: making zero deforestation commitments work better.
  14. Donofrio, Stephen; Leonard, Jonathan (2016). "Decoding Corporate Commitments To Reduce Deforestation".
  15. Jopke, P., & Schoneveld, G. C. (2018). Corporate commitments to zero deforestation.​Center for International Forestry Research.
  16. Pasiecznik, Nick & Saveninje, H. & Orshoven, C. & Bock, J. & Pacheco, Pablo. (2017). Key issues: making zero deforestation commitments work better.
  17. zu Ermgassen, Erasmus K H J; et al. "Using supply chain data to monitor zero deforestation commitments: an assessment of progress in the Brazilian soy sector". Environmental Research Letters. 15. doi: Check |doi= value (help).
  18. 18.0 18.1 Furumo, Paul R.; Lambin, Eric F. (May 2020). "Scaling up zero-deforestation initiatives through public-private partnerships: A look inside post-conflict Colombia". Global Environmental Change. 62 – via Science Direct.
  19. Leijten, Floris; et al. "Which forests could be protected by corporate zero deforestation commitments? A spatial assessment". Environ. Res. Lett. 15.

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