"Destruction: Certified"

European Business & Biodiversity Campaign - News

"Destruction: Certified"

Greenpeace International published a report arguing that certification is not a solution to deforestation, forest degradation and other ecosystem conversion. The publication shows that in specific, certification on its own has not helped companies meet their 2020 commitments to exclude deforestation from their supply chains.

© Greenpeace International
24 March 2021: The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) reports that between 70% and 80% of total deforestation globally is caused by expansion for agricultural production, mainly animal farming and soya and palm plantations. Together with natural ecosystem conversion and degradation, deforestation is a major contributor to the climate emergency and biodiversity crisis. In response, many companies and governments, including members of the Consumer Goods Forum (CGF – a global network of major manufacturers, retailers, service providers and business associations) have made commitments to eliminate deforestation and reduce degradation.  Many also looked to certification as a way to address these issues while being able to continue producing and consuming agricultural and forestry commodities.

The purpose of the Greenpeace International report is to assess the effectiveness of (mainly voluntary) certification for land-based commodities as an instrument to address global deforestation, forest degradation and other ecosystem conversion and associated human rights abuses (including violations of Indigenous rights and labour rights). Ultimately, the aim is to inform decision making by governments and companies on what role certification can play as a tool for cleaning up supply chains, what reforms are required and what other measures are needed to address the wider biodiversity and climate crises.

While certification of forest and ecosystem risk commodities (FERCs) has grown globally over the past decades, deforestation and natural ecosystem destruction have continued. Does this mean that certification has failed? How effective are certification schemes at addressing these issues? What inherently limits the effectiveness of certification? The basis of the report is formed by these and further questions. The analysis is based on an extensive literature review of research on certification, and the views of certification experts. At its core is an assessment of nine major certification schemes spread over five land-use sectors based on a review of publicly available information (together with feedback from the schemes themselves).

While some certification schemes have strong standards, the authors argue that weak implementation combined with a lack of transparency and product traceability means even these schemes have major failings. Certain schemes may have a localised positive impact, such as strong individual country or local application. However, far too many certified companies continue to be linked to forest and ecosystem destruction, land disputes and human rights abuses. The report thus concludes that certification is a weak tool to address global forest and ecosystem destruction. Currently, certification enables destructive businesses to continue operating as usual. By improving the image of forest and ecosystem risk commodities and so stimulating demand, certification risks actually increasing the harm caused by the expansion of commodity production according to the authors. From this perspective, certification schemes thus end up greenwashing products linked to deforestation, ecosystem destruction and rights abuses.

Download the Greenpeace Report