Ceres Supports Bipartisan FOREST Act To Build More Responsible Agricultural Supply Chains in the U.S. and Around the World

Mar 21, 2024 10:55 AM ET

March 21, 2024 /3BL/ - On International Day of Forests, Ceres today announced its support for the FOREST Act, bipartisan federal legislation that would leverage U.S. trade policy to protect global biodiversity and the climate by restricting the importation of foreign products from land that has been illegally deforested overseas.

“Illegal deforestation puts the global economy and climate at risk,” said Zach Friedman, director of federal policy at Ceres. “American trade policy should support the nation’s efforts to build an abundant, clean economy across all sectors, including by leveraging U.S. leadership on environmental stewardship, rule of law, and forest protection. We applaud Sens. Schatz and Braun and Reps. Blumenauer and Fitzpatrick for their bipartisan, bicameral leadership in introducing this legislation. We look forward to continuing to work with leading businesses across sectors and policymakers on both sides of the aisle to grow support for smart policies that protect U.S. farmers, ranchers, and foresters and provide greater transparency for U.S. consumers.”

The FOREST (Fostering Overseas Rule of Law and Environmentally Sound Trade) Act was introduced in both chambers of the U.S. Congress last December with bipartisan support.

“Corporate action on deforestation has not been urgent enough — the FOREST Act will help drive that necessary action while bringing the U.S. more into alignment with other deforestation regulations recently enacted in the European Union and U.K.,” said Meryl Richards, program director, food and forests at Ceres. “In addition, the regulation will help level the playing field for companies sourcing deforestation-linked commodities in the U.S. by requiring that key supply chains be free of illegal deforestation, rather than leaving it to voluntary action. Companies need to do this work to meet their climate commitments and mitigate the escalating risks of nature and biodiversity loss.”

In November 2023, Ceres released its Deforestation Scorecard: Assessing Corporate Action on Deforestation Amid Growing Regulatory Risk that revealed few of the largest global companies are taking ambitious action to tackle commodity-driven deforestation and drive progress toward a net zero economy. After assessing dozens of major companies across 15 industries, Ceres found most of them lack comprehensive no-deforestation policies, despite the importance of these policies in companies removing deforestation from their supply chains as well as adhering to the new regulations worldwide.

However, some leading companies are supporting policy solutions to deforestation. The Sustainable Food Policy Alliance — a coalition of major food companies Danone North America, Mars Inc., Nestlé USA, and Unilever United States that champions policy solutions that improve sustainability in agriculture and supply chains — this week voiced support for legislation that meets the goals of the FOREST Act.

“The Fostering Overseas Rule of Law and Environmentally Sound Trade (FOREST) Act represents an opportunity for the United States to address deforestation within agricultural supply chains. Sustainable Food Policy Alliance (SFPA) members agree that a legislative approach in the United States can provide a credible framework with reasonable incentives and penalties to prevent illegal deforestation and ensure harmonization and enforcement between international jurisdictions,” the SFPA said in a statement. “The FOREST Act leverages expertise from across the federal government to support the global transition of the supply base to more responsibly sourced forest-derived commodities, which will in turn aid our individual and collective efforts to create business pathways to meet science-based targets, achieve net zero emissions, and reduce our impact on the planet.”

Ceres has also worked closely with food and apparel companies in recent years to support public policy that advances climate, biodiversity, water, soil health, and other sustainability goals in the agricultural sector, including by calling for greater investment and access for climate-smart agriculture programs in the upcoming reauthorization of the Farm Bill and conservation funding in the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022. Leading businesses support efforts to reduce these impacts, which hurt crop yields and supply chains, and to bolster farmers’ role as leaders in implementing solutions that meet the growing demands of consumers.

About Ceres

Ceres is a nonprofit organization working with the most influential capital market leaders to solve the world’s greatest sustainability challenges. Through our powerful networks and global collaborations of investors, companies and nonprofits, we drive action and inspire equitable market-based and policy solutions throughout the economy to build a just and sustainable future. For more information, visit ceres.org and follow @CeresNews.