CASE STUDY WWF & RSPB
Assessing the land and deforestation impact of UK commodity imports overseas
The UK is using an overseas land equivalent to 88% of its own land area for just seven commodities – 3Keel ‘Riskier Business’ analysis for WWF and the RSPB
WF-UK and the RSPB last week published results of a new 3Keel analysis of the footprint of UK imports, which reveal that the UK’s demand for just seven key commodities requires a land area abroad that is almost the size of the UK itself – often in countries with high risks of deforestation.
The research, conducted by 3Keel’s Sustainable Commodities team, is an update to the influential Risky Business report for 2011-2015. It looks at the environmental and social impacts of the UK’s imports of seven key commodities – beef and leather, cocoa, palm oil, pulp and paper, rubber, soy and timber – updating the findings for 2015-2018.
Since the last assessment, the amount of overseas land needed to meet UK demand for these imports has grown by 15% and is now equivalent to around 88% of the UK’s land area.
More than a quarter of this land (28%) is in countries evaluated as ‘very high’ or ‘high’ risk for deforestation and human rights abuses. Risk is evaluated using data on deforestation from Global Forest Watch and the United Nations Food and Agriculture, and national human rights indicators from the World Bank and International Trade Union Confederation. The situation is particularly acute for the tropical commodities – cocoa, palm oil, rubber and soy – where between 60 and 80% of the land used for production is in ‘high’ or ‘very high’ risk countries including Brazil, Indonesia and Cote D’Ivoire.
WWF-UK and RSPB report that deforestation and habitat destruction in these areas could be threatening the survival of more than 2,800 species, including orangutans, giant anteaters, pygmy hippos and pangolins.
The report – Riskier Business: the UK Overseas Land Footprint – has been widely covered in mainstream media including The Times and ITV News. It provides crucial evidence for governments, businesses and financial institutions to understand the scale of deforestation and human rights abuses linked to UK commodity imports. The report also outlines the actions that are required by different stakeholders to address the environmental and human problems in the supply chains of these commodity imports.
This analysis is the most recent in a series of Risky Business analyses by the 3Keel Sustainable Commodities team. Research has previously been produced for WWF Belgium, WWF France, and WWF Denmark and the analysis has also been applied to assessing corporate supply chains.