Global deforestation is a major driver of biodiversity loss and climate change, and has significant environmental, social, and financial implications for ecosystems, communities, companies, and investors.
Land use and biodiversity are emerging areas of focus for the State Street Global Advisors’ Asset Stewardship program. In 2021, we initiated a series of targeted engagements to learn more about how our investee companies manage deforestation risk stemming from their supply chain.
Deforestation presents a risk to companies with material links to this practice in their supply chains and investments, and should be disclosed and managed like any other business risk.
In response to heightened regulatory, reputational, and financial risks, boards and management teams of companies which source and produce commodities at high risk of deforestation, or finance these activities, should respond accordingly. This includes managing deforestation and land degradation risk in their supply chains and enhancing disclosure on these efforts.
There is no standard framework among companies to establish deforestation policies or disclose related oversight practices, risk management efforts, targets and commitments, or performance KPIs, making it difficult for investors to assess their own exposure to material deforestation-related risks.
Partnerships with regional policymakers and local stakeholders are a critical component of managing deforestation-related risks in the supply chain. Successful approaches include public-private partnerships with local policymakers, inclusive training of the local workforce in more sustainable practices, protection of human rights and the respect of Free, Prior and Informed Consent (“FPIC”) of local communities.
While nearly 80% of the companies we engaged with acknowledge the value of forests in their public disclosures, only 21% formally recognize deforestation as a business risk.
Among the companies engaged, 58% are signatories to initiatives tackling deforestation. To achieve effective management of deforestation risk, companies should consider following this first step with enhanced sustainable business practices, supply chain risk mitigation, robust board oversight and disclosure of these efforts.
Companies in high-exposure sectors are taking various steps to address risks related to global deforestation in their supply chain and investments, but there are a number of challenges they face while identifying and remediating these issues. We will continue to engage with companies to inform our ongoing efforts in this space. Please reach out to our team at GovernanceTeam@ssga.com to request an engagement on this important topic.
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