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Attending International Sustainability Week in the Netherlands

The author is a shareholder advocate with Green Century, leading our tropical forests protection campaign.

(Pictured: Representatives of the signatories of the Cerrado Manifesto Statement of Support in Utrecht, Netherlands in June 2019.)

(Pictured: Representatives of the signatories of the Cerrado Manifesto Statement of Support in Utrecht, Netherlands in June 2019.)

Since many corporations have made robust pledges to halt deforestation in their operations and supply chains by 2020, next year is an important year for forests.

In 2010, the Consumer Goods Forum made a commitment on behalf of its 400 member companies to help achieve zero net deforestation in key commodity supply chains by 2020. Four years later, many of those companies reaffirmed their commitment to halting tropical forest loss by 2020 by signing the New York Declaration on Forests.

With the critical 2020 deadline looming, Green Century is ramping up its efforts to push companies to honor their commitments. As part of this effort, I recently traveled to Utrecht, the Netherlands to attend International Sustainability Week, which was focused on deforestation-free, sustainable commodities.

International Sustainability Week – a series of different, but related, conferences – was an opportunity for multiple stakeholders to converse about their perspectives and plans of action going into 2020. It also was an opportunity for us to ascertain the industry perspective on tackling supply chain deforestation as we head into a new shareholder advocacy season. Attendees included investors, corporations, certification bodies, NGOs, and banks.

While I was in Utrecht, I attended three conferences: one was a gathering for signatories of the Cerrado Manifesto and the other two were hosted by the certification bodies for sustainable soy and sustainable palm oil.

The Roundtable for Responsible Soy (RTRS) hosted the first conference. The RTRS oversees the Standard for Responsible Soy Production, which are the requirements – ranging from labor conditions to environmental responsibility – that supply chain actors must follow in order to receive certification.

The RTRS conference included discussions on the responsibilities of each sector to contributing to viable solutions to soy-based deforestation, how jurisdictional and supply chain approaches to ending deforestation could complement each other, and next steps for improving supply chain collaboration.

The following day, the conversation around sustainable soy production intensified at the Cerrado Manifesto Statement of Support Summit. Soy production is a leading driver of deforestation in the Cerrado, a densely forested savannah the size of Mexico and a hub for biodiversity.

The summit was attended by signatories to the Statement of Support for the Cerrado Manifesto, which calls for an end to deforestation and native vegetation conversion in the Brazilian Cerrado. Green Century was an early signatory to the Statement of Support and is the only U.S. investor on the Cerrado Joint Financial Task Force. The energy in the room was quite different from the RTRS, despite focusing on the same objective – to end deforestation in soy supply chains – and included discussions about alternatives to certification.

The Sustainable Palm Oil Dialogue, hosted by the Roundtable for Responsible Palm Oil (RSPO), honed in on how various stakeholders can work collectively to reach 2020 targets. During this conference, I had the opportunity to meet with the CEO of the RSPO to discuss the organization’s role in working with small farmers and financial institutions, and how all interested parties can work to improve the global perception of sustainable palm oil.

As 2020 approaches, you can rest assured that Green Century will continue to press companies to stop burning and razing tropical forests (or sourcing from companies that do) and satisfy their commitments to ending deforestation.

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