Deforestation is a major environmental issue that has long been associated with the palm oil, pulp and paper, and soya supply chains in particular, and also affects sugar production. Poor forest management and the loss of High Conservation Value (HCV) areas still remain a challenge. Rising consumer demand means tropical rainforests and associated peatlands have been cleared to make way for plantations, which contribute to greenhouse gas emissions, soil erosion, water pollution and a loss of biodiversity; working conditions and land conflicts over tenure rights are also an issue. Many NGOs actively campaign against unsustainable practices.
In 2010, Nestlé made a ‘no deforestation’ commitment, stating that all of its products, globally, will not be associated with deforestation by 2020 (Nestlé also supports the Consumer Goods Forum’s ambition for zero net deforestation by 2020). This commitment was the first of its kind by a food company, and covers all the raw materials we use to make our foods and beverages, as well as our packaging, making traceability and transparency crucial. A significant number of traders and manufacturers have since followed our lead and developed sustainable palm oil policies and ‘no deforestation’ commitments of their own. Within the soya supply chain, we work with Proforest to identify, categorise and maintain high-risk zones. In the Cerrado area of Brazil, for example, we only source products from land that has not been converted from HCV areas to other land use.
We are also developing and sharing tools to enable smallholder farmers to avoid deforestation and the loss of natural vegetation, and finding ways to help them minimise water consumption. In the sugar supply chain, for instance, remediation activities are implemented in conjunction with a network of local delivery partners in specific countries, who can bring additional local knowledge to the process.