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Investors failing to follow through on call for action on Amazon fires

Smoke in forest: Phoebe Strafford from Unsplash

Just 14% of investors that signed 2019 statement have policies on deforestation

One year after 235 investors called for action from companies to halt deforestation in the Amazon, just 33 of them have introduced zero-deforestation policies of their own [1]. 

That is the finding of an assessment by Global Canopy of the policies of some of the world’s biggest financial institutions, which have over US$16 trillion in assets under management.

As new fire data from the Brazilian National Institute for Space Research (INPE) reveals that the number of fires in the Amazon is 13% higher than this point last year [2], Global Canopy Executive Director Niki Mardas warned that the financial sector must step up efforts to address deforestation to save the Amazon.

"The financial sector is fuelling deforestation in Brazil through their investments in companies in beef and soy supply chains. Investors raised the alarm last year because of the financial risks linked to deforestation. The situation this year is far worse, and although some investors are showing real leadership, more action is needed across the sector.”

Last year’s statement, coordinated by the UN PRI initiative and Ceres [3], urged companies to have publicly-available commodity-specific no deforestation policies, to take action to minimise their risk of exposure to deforestation and to disclose that risk. 

It also called for companies to be transparent about whether they monitor if their suppliers have zero-deforestation policies and whether these are implemented, with clear annual reporting on exposure and progress.

But Global Canopy’s analysis found, one year since signing the statement, just 21 of the 235 investors have taken steps to ensure they have their own deforestation policies in place covering all of the forest-risk commodities in their portfolios.

A further 12 investors have policies for timber and palm oil but not for soy and cattle, despite these being the main drivers of deforestation in Brazil. 

Mardas added:

“Last year’s statement was an important step. But investors can’t go silent as the problem gets worse. They need to engage on this consistently, setting clear deforestation policies and reporting on their progress.” 

A separate assessment, also by Global Canopy, of the 150 financial institutions with the most exposure to deforestation in their portfolios earlier this year found that 102 of these did not have a deforestation policy for any of the forest-risk commodities in their portfolios.

 

Notes to Editor:
[1] Fueling the fires: Why investors need to do more to protect the Amazon, Forest 500, October 2020 

Our assessment looks at the 235 identified investors that signed a global statement in September 2019 calling for action to halt deforestation in the Amazon. See full statement here

[2] Updated fire data per biome (Amazonia) shows 31,349 fires in September (as of 30 September), bringing the total for 2020 to 75,362 compared to 66,749 fires at the end of September 2019. See here

[3] The UN PRI and Ceres statement recognised “the crucial role that tropical forests play in tackling climate change, protecting biodiversity and ensuring ecosystem services” and said signatories were “concerned about the financial impact deforestation may have on investee companies, by potentially increasing reputational, operational and regulatory risks.” See here