Fast food companies fight deforestation

A number of UK food companies have called on the government to introduce tougher laws when it comes to protecting the rainforest.

A number of UK food companies have called on the government to introduce tougher laws when it comes to protecting the rainforest. Currently, the proposed law concerns land that has been illegally felled – but the companies who have signed a letter to the gov say it should extend to all deforestation, legal or not. By Sadia Nowshin. 

21 companies have signed the letter to the government on the final day of their consultation on forest protection.  

MPs are planning to pass a law that would ban firms from sourcing material or profiting from illegally deforested land. The letter suggests it should apply to all deforested land, because the impact on the planet is the same regardless of the legality or technicalities. 

Environmentalists have supported the bill, with Robin Willoughby from eco-group Mighty Earth pointing out that “with the Amazon in flames and forests being cut down at an alarming rate, Nature doesn’t recognise the difference between legal and illegal deforestation”.

It’s a positive move!

Protecting the UK landscape is important, of course, but it feels a bit pointless to focus solely on our own little island when the companies we buy from just move their environmental destruction abroad. And according to a survey carried out by the WWF, it’s in those company’s best interests to go green if they’re to keep the business of the British public. 

67% of people said they wanted the gov to do more to tackle deforestation. 

81% wanted more transparency about products that are imported.

In general, we want reassurance that the food we’re eating has been produced ethically and will call out companies who fail to ensure that.  

companies push for harsher deforestation laws

Truly no ethical consumption under capitalism…

Before you go out on a shopping spree in support, here’s the rub: the intentions of these signatories might not be as pure as we’d like to hope. 

Part of the reason why they’ve signed the letter is because currently the proposed law will only apply to big companies. It makes sense as a starting point, as it’s those huge corporations who are responsible for a significant chunk of environmental damage. However, what the signatories want is for the law to be extended to smaller companies too, because they don’t want those middle-sized corps to gain any kind of competitive advantage over them. 

As disappointing as it is, their motivations may just be a loosely veiled concern for profit rather than genuine passion about deforestation.

Is it too little, too late? 

Some of the big corporations supporting the move may come as a bit of a surprise given that they haven’t exactly got the reputation of being eco-friendly companies. Signatories with morally shady skeletons in the closet include:

  • Nestle… who have dried up countless creeks in America for bottled water and tried to lessen the blow of their cocoa beans being sourced from child slave labour farms by basically saying “everyone does it!”. 
  • Unilever… who were found by the Ethical Consumer to be operating in countries that tested on animals and linked to buying palm oil from suppliers who were partly responsible for devastating forest fires in Indonesia.
  • Pilgrim’s Pride… the second biggest chicken producer in the world, who were taken to court by Environment Florida for “alleged ongoing violations of the federal Clean Water Act at its poultry processing plant”. 
War on drugs' is driving deforestation - BBC Science Focus Magazine

The list goes on. 

It begs the question: are these big companies finally getting wise to the importance of sustainability and committing to change, or is this just another facade to get environmentalists off their back while they continue to profit from exploitation (both of people and of the Earth) behind the scenes?