Worldwide forests cover no less than 31% of the land area. More than 1.6 billion people depend on it for their daily livelihoods. In addition forests stop erosion, provide a clean supply of water and dampen the effects of CO2 emissions. The value of this natural capital is not in question, but still forests rapidly disappear. It is old news, but still current. How can this be?
It is a recurring problem: forest fires in Indonesia. Deliberately lit to make production space especially for palm oil. Although the police take action the stakes are high in this big money industry. Moreover, Indonesia is just one example: deforestation is typically a problem that occurs in emerging markets that want to meet the ever-rising needs of consumption.
How do you create change when the financial interests are so big? Integrated reporting is the answer, because it values both the natural capital and the financial criteria. Also social effects play a role, because fires invariably cause significant air pollution and therefore health risks. Which also brings financial risks and thus we are back where we started.
Change starts with the companies that purchase those products. For instance multinational Unilever, this company uses palm oil in many of its products. In June 2013, Unilever organised a large-scale supplier summit in Singapore. Not only to stimulate the cooperating organisations, but also to create a basis for a sustainable growth strategy. These are not mere empty words, Unilever has recently announced to switch to fully traceable, sustainable palm oil in Indonesia.
Deforestation is a worldwide problem. Due to the size of the problem the solution is illusive, resulting in paralysis. Unilever shows that it can be different. It's just a matter of choice.
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