Is focusing on forests the answer for companies racing to meet climate goals?

This year we witnessed a flurry of ambitious corporate climate pledges. Included in the mix, were a handful of nature-based climate solutions, like reducing deforestation and investing in forest restoration, which are gaining traction as ways for companies to meet climate goals.

Growing private sector climate and deforestation commitments show that the ambition is there. But, failure by leading companies to meet their 2020 goals shows that many are struggling to implement plans to actually get the work done.

For food companies with complex supply chains, reducing both emissions and deforestation is extremely difficult. Tracing where commodities are sourced back to the farm level and then working with local farmers to adopt more sustainable production strategies are constant challenges that companies are working to overcome.

While companies recognize that eliminating deforestation across global supply chains will provide the emissions reduction at the scale they need to hit their climate goals, they don’t always have the resources or know-how to do so. That can change.

Why should deforestation be a priority for companies?

Deforestation in the Amazon continues to rise, accounting for 44% of Brazil’s total CO2 emissions in 2019.

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, “Protecting the world’s natural systems and promoting their restoration have the potential to contribute one quarter to over one-third of the total climate change mitigation required by 2030.” This represents a huge, and largely overlooked opportunity for reducing corporate climate footprints. 

Theresa Eberhardt, Project Manager, EDF+Business

At the same time, images of the burning Amazon have invigorated a sense of urgency for stopping deforestation and strengthened stakeholder pressure on corporations to take immediate action.

Investors, for example, see deforestation as a major material, financial, environmental and human rights risk and they’re watching how companies proactively take action. In a landslide vote, P&G shareholders favored a resolution aimed at tackling supply chain loopholes that impact deforestation and forest degradation.

Two ways to stop deforestation today

More companies are exploring opportunities to engage in jurisdictional approaches to tackle deforestation, which enable companies to collaborate with local governments and other stakeholders to increase productivity and reduce deforestation over an entire region.

Here are two resources for companies looking to engage in jurisdictional approaches today:

Produce, Conserve, Include (PCI)

One of the world’s leading jurisdictional approaches is the Produce, Conserve, Include (PCI) strategy, which is currently deployed in Mato Grosso, Brazil – the country’s largest agricultural producing state.

The PCI aims to produce more agricultural commodities, maintain native vegetation and reduce deforestation, and include smallholders and Indigenous Peoples in economic development. If the PCI meets these goals, it will avoid approximately 6 gigatons of greenhouse gases by 2030, and create a scalable model that can be replicated across Brazil and beyond. 

To help guide company engagement in the PCI, Environmental Defense Fund and partners produced the PCI Pitchbook. The goal is to make it simple for companies to understand how they can connect their supply chain efforts to the broader Mato Grosso PCI strategy to contribute to its success and achieve their own supply chain goals.


For companies with or without direct sourcing in Brazil, the recently launched CONSERV program offers an alternative way to fund forest protection.

CONSERV is a financing mechanism that will pay private landowners not to deforest when they are legally allowed to do so in the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso. Through CONSERV, companies can fund deforestation prevention through direct investments, even without direct sourcing in Mato Grosso, and can help demonstrate that forest conservation and legal compliance are economically viable.

The potential for scale here is huge: an area the size of the UK in the Brazilian Amazon can be protected by preventing legal deforestation.

It is an exciting time for companies who are exploring how to achieve their climate commitments through forest protection. There are various options for these companies to engage in efforts to reduce deforestation and restoration, including jurisdictional approaches like the PCI and incentive mechanisms such as the CONSERV program. More information on how these innovative initiatives are down in practice will be covered in an upcoming webinar as part of London’s Climate Action Week.

These opportunities that are signaling that the time for companies to take action is now.