“While we welcome the government’s announcement to introduce a law to tackle deforestation in company supply chains as part of the Environment Bill, we are keen to ensure that any due diligence legislation is robust, producer focused, ensures smallholder farmers and workers do not lose out, and is effective in ensuring compliance with meaningful impact,” said Alice Lucas, The Fairtrade Foundation’s Policy and Advocacy Manager.
“Despite submissions to the consultation from ourselves and civil society partners, we remain concerned that the government continues to press ahead with a law that will only hold companies to account in line with local laws, which may be weak or ill-enforced.”
In a statement, the government said: “The UK will go further than ever before to clampdown on illegal deforestation and protect rainforests … thanks to world-leading new laws being introduced through the landmark Environment Bill".
The move coincides with the publication of a new report setting out government’s approach to tackling deforestation linked to UK demand for products such as cocoa, rubber, soya, and palm oil. The report responds to the recommendations from the independent Global Resource Initiative Taskforce, which consulted over 200 leading businesses and organisations.”
The Fairtrade Foundation said, in its consultation response, it highlighted to the government that national laws in some commodity-producing countries are not yet effective in preventing deforestation, “so we now risk seeing a situation where companies remain complicit in unacceptable levels of deforestation while claiming compliance with the UK law,” said Lucas.
Fairtrade is also concerned the new law would not include action on human rights abuses and only covers illegal deforestation.
UK International Environment Minister Lord Zac Goldsmith said: “In every conceivable way, we depend on the natural world around us. Rainforests cool the planet, provide clean air and water, and are a haven for some of the most endangered species on Earth – and so protecting them must be a core priority.
“Our new due diligence law is one piece of a much bigger package of measures that we are putting in place to tackle deforestation. Our intent is not just to take world-leading domestic measures, but to build a global alliance of countries committed to working together to protect the world’s precious forests.
“Last month, nearly 80 countries signed the Leader’s Pledge for Nature, committing to reverse the destruction of nature by 2030. The UK played a key role in crafting the pledge, and as hosts of the next and all important UN Climate Conference, we have a chance to turn those powerful words into action.”
The government said it will move swiftly to bring the legislation into force, laying the necessary secondary legislation shortly after COP26 (the 26th United Nations Climate Change conference to be held in Glasgow, Scotland, from 1 to 12 November 2021), where it will be "forging an alliance of governments from around the world to agree a new approach to tackling this problem".