PARIS (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Business leaders, environment ministers and even royalty urged companies to eschew raw materials that destroy forests, at the U.N. climate summit in Paris on Tuesday.
The CEO of Marks and Spencer, Britain’s high-street retail giant, said $150 billion per year of value was at stake, in terms of the resources forests provide for business, including palm oil, soy and timber.
Marc Bolland took to the podium on the sidelines of the climate summit, alongside representatives of indigenous Amazon dwellers and Peru’s environment minister, while on a separate stage Britain’s Prince Charles and Brazilian officials also called for the protection of forests.
“We will reward countries that tackle deforestation,” Bolland pledged, saying firms should source their raw materials from sustainable nations.
“Working alone is not enough. We need partnership. We need scale. It’s about produce and protect,” Bolland said.
Marks and Spencer is a member of a Consumer Goods Forum that includes Unilever and Nestle, which is working for sustainable business practices to minimize waste of resources such as water and energy, as well as trees.
Prince Charles singled out Unilever as a pioneer of sustainability, but said companies had to do more.
“It remains the case that many of the world’s largest companies and their financial backers pay scant, by which I really mean no, attention to the deforestation footprint of their supply chains,” the prince told delegates.
All commodities firms should commit to stopping deforestation, he added, so that not cutting down more trees than are replaced becomes “the norm, rather than the exception”.
Companies are increasingly aware of the benefits of sustainable practices for their brands as environment campaigners name and shame bad practice on social media, and pressure on resources, such as water, agricultural crops and trees, drives up costs.
Representing the people of the Amazon, whose way of life depends on the forest, Brazil’s Environment Minister Izabella Teixeira said laws and incentives must persuade local authorities and business to protect the rainforest.
“We need to put together protection and production,” she said.
Data issued last week showed the destruction of Brazil’s Amazon forest, the world’s largest intact rainforest, rose by 16 percent versus a year ago as the government struggled to enforce legislation and halt illegal clearings.
Globally, the loss of forest cover is stabilizing as replanting counters approximately 12 million hectares of forest clearance every year, according to U.N. figures.
When forests are degraded or destroyed, the carbon they store is released, with deforestation accounting for an estimated 10 to 15 percent of carbon emissions worldwide.
On Monday, Germany, Norway and Britain announced a collective aim to provide $5 billion from 2015 to 2020 for conservation efforts in forest countries if they demonstrate measured and verified emissions reductions.
Reporting by Barbara Lewis and Megan Rowling; editing by Laurie Goering. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit www.trust.org