The Government is proposing legislation requiring businesses to show due diligence in their supply chains by publishing the origin of commodities including cocoa, rubber, soy and palm oil. They would also need to show foodstuffs complied with local laws protecting forests and other natural ecosystems.
Businesses that fail to comply would be subject to fines, with the precise level to be set at a later date, the Government said.
The move is part of a strategy to clean up the UK supply chain and protect forests, which are central to tackling climate change.
The Government said 80% of deforestation was caused by the production of agricultural commodities and most deforestation – up to 90% in some countries – is illegal.
‘Wider environmental footprint'
International environment minister Lord Goldsmith, said: “We have all seen the devastating pictures of the world’s most precious forests being cleared, often illegally, and we can’t afford not to act as a country.
“There is a hugely important connection between the products we buy and their wider environmental footprint, which is why the government is consulting today on new measures that would make it illegal for businesses in the UK to use commodities that are not grown in accordance with local laws.”
Goldsmith added that there had been a lot of progress to make the UK’s supply chains more sustainable, but more needed to be done.
“We will continue to work closely with farmers, business and governments around the world to ensure that we can protect our vital forests and support livelihoods as we build back greener from coronavirus,” he said
Today’s move follows the establishment of the Government’s independent taskforce – the Global Resource Initiative (GRI). The group was formed in 2019 to consider how the UK could ‘green’ international supply chains and leave a lighter footprint on the global environment by slowing the loss of forests.
Sir Ian Cheshire, the chair of the independent taskforce, said: “Every day, British consumers buy food and other products which are contributing to the loss of the world’s most precious forests.
“We need to find ways of reducing this impact if we are to tackle climate change, reduce the risks of pandemics and protect the livelihoods of some of the poorest people in the world/
“I’m delighted to see the Government respond to one of the key recommendations of the Global Resource Initiative. Starting a discussion on how changes in UK law could help us all to reduce our global footprint. I would encourage as many people as possible to respond to this important consultation.”
The consultation will run for six weeks and seek views from UK and international stakeholders, and will consider potential impacts on businesses and other interests.
The UK will host the UN Climate Change Conference next year.