Report: Major Global Brands Receive Failing Grades in Efforts to Stop Deforestation and Human Rights Violations, Breaking Public Policy Promises

Detailed scorecard reveals worst global laggards include Procter & Gamble, Ferrero, Mondelēz and Nissin Foods 

*High resolution photos and drone footage available of recent deforestation global forest hotspots

San Francisco– a new report released today by Rainforest Action Network (RAN) uses detailed criteria to assess major global brands against each other in their efforts to end forest destruction and rights abuses in their supply chains. The annual report, titled Keep Forests Standing 2023 Scorecard: Evaluating the Brands Driving Deforestation and Human Rights Violations, issues letter grades to each brand, assesses their corporate policies and analyzes trends and developments in forest-risk commodity sectors, including palm oil, pulp and paper, soy, beef, cocoa, coffee and wood products. The report concludes that all of the brands have a long way to go towards receiving an ‘A’ grade on the critically important issues assessed and that none are on track to meet the requirements of new regulations like the EU Deforestation Regulation (EUDR), exposing their investors and financiers to real material risk.

The reality is that, despite hard-won commitments from the major international brands to transform their supply chains, deforestation and violence against frontline land defenders are on the rise globally, and the brands are still profiting from forest destruction and rights abuses,” said Gemma Tillack with Rainforest Action Network. “This disconnect between paper promises and on the ground realities shows that there remain major loopholes in the policies that have been adopted by the brands.”

Procter & Gamble emerged as the worst laggard overall and in the last year has actually moved backwards by publishing a cross-commodity policy with even weaker protections for forests. Mondelēz, Ferrero and Nissin Foods also scored a “F” grade, making them the laggards among the 10 companies evaluated. Scoring in the middle of the pack among their peers were Nestlé, PepsiCo, Kao, Colgate-Palmolive and Mars. The highest score received was a ‘C’ by Unilever, which just recently issued an industry-leading policy meant to protect Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) from intimidation and persecution. 

The report warns consumers of an emerging trend to be wary of. Big brands like Nestlé, Mars and Ferrero are declaring ‘deforestation-free’ supply chains but they are doing so without disclosing any third-party verified evidence to back up their claims.

The report finds that, even after years of promises to clean up their supply chains, business as usual practices are resulting in corporate expansion into the world’s last intact forest landscapes and the territories of Indigenous Peoples. All the brands were found to lack deadlines for ending deforestation, conversion of natural ecosystems and human rights violations in all forest-risk commodity supply chains. The data presented demonstrates that while all of the brands have nominally committed to the industry standard policy framework known as No Deforestation, No Peatland, No Exploitation (NDPE), many of the NDPE policies that have been adopted do not apply to all forest-risk commodities that a brand uses to manufacture its consumer goods products. 

The passage and impending enforcement of the EUDR is a major development in the world of forest-risk commodities that will substantially impact all of the brands featured in the scorecard. In short, the EUDR requires all companies that import cattle, cocoa, soy, palm oil, coffee, rubber or wood products into the EU to trace the commodities used in the products that they are selling back to the plot of land where they were produced. The data presented demonstrates that major global brands––and their suppliers––are unlikely to be able to meet these new requirements.

In a hopeful trend, many companies are increasing their investments in landscape initiatives, some involving thousands of smallholder farmers and the protection and restoration of forests. Unilever and PepsiCo are early leaders in developing jurisdictional approaches alongside governments in the provinces of Aceh and North Sumatra––home to Indonesia’s globally important Leuser Ecosystem. But the report cautions that while these programs hold promise, the scale of change isn’t happening nearly fast enough as deforestation persists in globally significant rainforests.

The report emphasizes that both a cross commodity and a corporate group approach are needed in order for brands to truly address their full impact on forests and people through their purchasing practices. Many brands are shown to be doing business with one arm of a corporate conglomerate while knowing that another arm of the same parent company is violating its policy commitments.This disconnect arises largely from the fact that the corporate conglomerates supplying big global brands with the ingredients to make their products are too often using shadow, or off the books operations to look like they have reformed while still doing business as usual and successfully evading responsibility.