Land use change
Seven agricultural commodities that go into many food and beverages products are a major contributor to deforestation.
What’s going on?
Just seven commodities – cattle, oil palm, soy, cocoa, rubber, coffee, and plantation wood fibre — accounted for 26% of global tree cover loss from 2001 to 2015. This meant the loss of 71.9 million hectares of forest, equivalent to twice the size of Germany.[i]
This matters because forests are one of the planet’s key defences against climate change – they absorb nearly 40% of the fossil fuel emissions the world generates.[ii] Yet as the world’s population increases, deforestation is accelerating – mainly driven by agriculture.
Deforestation isn’t just a threat to the planet’s ability to clean the air, it’s also a major cause of biodiversity loss.
Further, it is now being linked with an increased risk of disease pandemics, such as COVID-19. This is because while deforestation causes the extinction of some species, others will thrive – including those, like rats and bats, that host potentially dangerous pathogens that can make the jump to humans.[iii]
Forests clean the air, absorbing nearly 40% of the fossil fuel emissions.[iv]
Nearly half (47%) of current coffee production comes from countries including Brazil, India, and Nicaragua, which are predicted to lose more than 60% of their suitable coffee growing areas by 2050 due to climate change.[ix]
According to one 2015 estimate the UK imported 3.3 million tonnes of soy per year, requiring an overseas land area of 1.68 million hectares to grow it – nearly 11 times the size of Greater London.[viii]
Forests provide habitats for 80% of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity, and livelihoods for 1.6 billion people.[v]
The UK accounts for a 9% share of the global land footprint for cocoa, a 5% share of the global footprint for palm oil, and 5% for pulp and paper – despite having slightly less than 1% of the global population and around 2% of global GDP.[vi]
77% of global soy is fed to animals.[vii]
Get nature positive
Retail businesses have a role to play in supporting a shift away from the heavy reliance the world now has on these seven commodities to more sustainable sources and, also, alternatives.
Less reliance on these commodities will free land to support biodiversity, for example, as well as delivering health benefits and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Inspired by steps retail businesses are already taking, we’ve compiled suggested actions to help you on your journey to getting nature positive.
Explore the actions your business can take to join the journey to nature positivity.