Sustainable agricultural supply chains and actions against deforestation and forest degradation

The European Commission recently announced the release of a Communication on “Stepping up EU action against deforestation and forest degradation” and opened a public consultation. Especially forest-risk commodities, such as palm oil, soy, coffee and cocoa, are in the focus of the debate. As public and private actors already have a broad experience in realizing sustainable, deforestation-free agricultural supply chains, GIZ and Conservation International (CI) jointly organized an event on 26 February in Brussels to contribute to the discussion.

Around 100 participants from stakeholders such as the European Commission, EU Member States, NGOs, producing countries and the private sector followed the invitation to learn from best practices, to foster knowledge exchange and to discuss the role of the EU and the actions needed. During the event, which was part of GIZ´s Capacity4Change (C4C) series, it became clear that all stakeholders play a crucial role in making zero-deforestation supply chains a reality.

Towards zero-deforestation supply chains

As an opening, Prof. Johan Rockström, Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) and CI Chief Scientist, highlighted the importance of forests in particular for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). He stressed the need for a comprehensive and global approach to tackle the challenges of climate change, while addressing forest protection, food systems and agriculture simultaneously.

Dr. Stefan Schmitz, Deputy Director-General and Commissioner for the “One World – No Hunger” Initiative of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), emphasized the importance of deforestation-free agricultural supply chains for the German Government and welcomed the EU’s initiative. He stressed that Germany will continue its commitment to halt deforestation within the Amsterdam group and will keep the topic high on the political agenda during the upcoming German Presidency of the Council of the European Union in 2020.

Practical experiences: Common goal, different approaches

Afterwards, different approaches contributing to zero-deforestation supply chains were shared. Maike Möllers, Deputy Director of the Programme “Sustainable Agricultural Supply Chains and Standards” at GIZ, introduced the jurisdictional approach implemented in Indonesia and Côte d’Ivoire on behalf of the BMZ. This approach ensures that an entire area, instead of individual production units, is been transformed into a sustainable and deforestation- free sourcing region for palm oil, coffee or other commodities.

The experience of the private sector was shared by Haley Drage, Vice President, Public Affairs, EMEA at Starbucks. She emphasized the company’s policy regarding deforestation along coffee and other supply chains and introduced the C.A.F.E. Practices program. It started in 2004 and promotes sustainable agriculture, shade tree practice, biodiversity and land conservation. This results in deforestation-free coffee supply chains for more than 99% of the sourcing farms, said Drage. In addition, Starbucks partnered with CI to launch the Sustainable Coffee Challenge in 2015, which has since grown to more than 100 international partners – including governments, companies and NGOs.

Margot Wood, Global Sustainability Fellow at Conservation International, presented Trase, an online platform which provides data free-of-charge, comprehensively mapping supply chains for key commodities from countries and regions. Wood said that systems like Trase can show how commodity exports are linked to specific environmental and social risks in the places where they are produced, allowing relevant stakeholders to understand these risks and identify opportunities for more sustainable production. However, publicizing complete EU import records would be key to unlocking additional supply chain information – in particular on countries that do not have reliable export documentation.

Supporting the way forward

During the event’s panel discussion, Bojan Grlaš, Forest Team Leader at the European Commission´s Directorate-General for Environment, stressed the importance of halting deforestation in supply chains at international and EU level. According to Grlaš the upcoming EU communication on an action plan is a key instrument, which will take into account various deforestation drivers such as agriculture, illegal deforestation, mining and urbanization. Proposed measures will relate to the supply and demand side as well as to financing, international cooperation and research.

Chantal Marijnissen, Head of Unit for Environment, Natural Resources and Water at the European Commission´s Directorate-General for International Cooperation and Development, underlined the EU's holistic approach to deforestation. It not only covers topics such as biodiversity or illegal deforestation, but also looks at the framework conditions in partner countries regarding forest management, land rights, landscape approach or legal deforestation.

As producing country, Indonesia took part in the discussion. Andi Sparringa, Second Secretary for Economic Affairs at the Embassy of the Republic of Indonesia in Belgium, expressed the willingness of the Indonesian government to cooperate with the EU. However, Indonesian conditions and priorities such as poverty reduction must always be taken into account. A multi-stakeholder approach involving government, business and local communities is crucial for success, said Sparringa.

Herbert Lust, Vice President and Managing Director at Conservation International Europe, stressed the urgency for concrete measures against deforestation and the need for legislation at EU level. In his experience, there are promising projects in partner countries from both the public and private side, but public projects often lack the financing for "scaling-up".

Sharing insights into the private sector challenges, Dionne Heijnen, EU Public Affairs Manager at Mondelez, also welcomed the European Commission's plans for an EU Forest Action Plan. She stressed the importance to create uniform conditions for companies in the EU by harmonizing national actions, e.g. regarding due diligence. 

Anne Stolk, Policy advisor for agricultural commodities at the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality of the Netherlands, represented the Dutch Presidency of the Amsterdam Declarations Partnership and welcomed the European Commission's plans. She stated that this group of countries has called the EU Communication to put in place an ambitious action plan against deforestation. The Amsterdam Declarations Partnership is based on the Amsterdam Declarations, that were launched in 2015 in the context of the Paris Climate Agreement. They build on the New York Declaration on Forests’ commitments which underlines the global importance to preserve primary forests and high conservation value areas, amongst others, through responsible supply chain management. The Amsterdam Declarations Partnership currently prepares an opinion on the EU Communication and wishes to continue to be involved in the consultation process.

Stolk was joined by the closing remarks of Benedek Jávor, Member of the European Parliament (The Greens/EFA) and Rodrigo de Lapuerta Montoya, Director of the FAO Liaison Office in Brussels. Both highlighted the existing political will to address the issue of deforestation at EU level. In addition, Benedek Jávor explicitly called for legally binding measures.

All speaker and panelists. Pictures: Copyright GIZ
Opening of the event by the GIZ Representation
Closing remarks by Rodrigo de Lapuerta Montoya, Director of the FAO Liaison Office in Brussels
The plenary discussion
Presentation by Haley Drage, Starbucks
Various stakeholders joined the event

Capacity4Change is an event series in Brussels organised by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH in cooperation with selected partner institutions and organisations. C4C aims to enrich Brussel’s policy debate with practical know-how and implementation experiences. It features innovative approaches, challenging analyses, interesting publications and thought-provoking ideas.