Consumer Goods Forum cites FSC and RSPO in net zero deforestation pledge

United_Plantations © RSPO
United_Plantations © RSPO
This month the Consumer Goods Forum (CGF), the global platform for the consumer goods industry, released its “Sustainability Activation Toolkit.” In this progressive and clear publication, the CGF lays out its commitment to net zero deforestation by 2020 and outlines clear steps towards using multi-stakeholder standards such as FSC and others.

You may have heard of the CGF, made up of more than 400 companies in 70 countries with combined sales of EUR 2.5 trillion (think Walmart, Pepsico, L’Oreal, Nestlé, General Mills, Kellogg’s, Unilever, and many more).  You may also know about their important and recent sustainability commitments in areas such as deforestation, waste, refrigeration and packaging.  In deforestation in particular, the CGF Board made a firm resolution to mobilise resources to achieve “net zero deforestation by 2020,” with a focus on palm oil, soy, wood, pulp, paper and beef. 

CGF’s new “Sustainability Activation Toolkit” takes net zero deforestation and other pledges forward into a step-by-step action plan for CGF member companies to meet those commitments if they so choose.  This document lays out a  clear path in each sector of focus.  For example, in palm oil ISEAL associate member Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) is firmly endorsed with steps for a company to 1) become a member of RSPO, 2) set a timeline for 100% sourcing of certified sustainable palm oil (CSPO), and so on, with guidance and links provided on how to begin with RSPO and find certified supply. 

In wood, the steps and messages are a bit more complex, but again, the endorsement for responsible forest management and certification is clear.  While CGF supports both FSC and PEFC as standards that should be used for sourcing, the message is a little more nuanced.  ISEAL full member FSC is listed first with descriptions and steps along with helpful links and an overview of FSC principles.  The Toolkit goes on to say that because FSC certified supply does “not yet meet CGF demand,” that members need to also use PEFC and SFI. While some information is provided on PEFC principles, no information is provided in detail about SFI or how to begin with that programme.  The Toolkit also highlights how FSC provides a “mixed” label for the mixing of FSC-certified material with non-certified material if that non-certified material complies with FSC Controlled Wood guidelines.

In soy, similar support and steps are provided for engaging with the Roundtable on Responsible Soy (RTRS), and in cattle there is a clear message for companies to support and join the Global Roundtable on Sustainable Beef.

The Toolkit was produced as part of CGF’s Sustainability Pillar that is co-sponsored by Tesco’s Philip Clarke and Unilever’s Paul Polman.  The pillar and its three strategies are also the driving forces behind the well-known Global Social Compliance Programme (GSCP), created as part of the CGF sustainability strategy to ‘bring global alignment and voluntary standards to non-competitive areas such as ethical sourcing.’

Overall, this CGF step-by-step toolkit, if embraced by the many large and powerful CGF member companies, has the potential to catalyse sustainable sourcing commitments from some of the less progressive companies, and to push their leadership towards using multi-stakeholder standards and NGO-supported roundtables as their main tools for meeting their responsible sourcing goals. The message from the CGF Board to its members seems clear:  Make a plan, source certified if at all possible, communicate your efforts and results transparently.  Let’s hope many companies with ‘business as usual’ sourcing plans, take up the recommendations in the Toolkit and roll out new plans and commitments that use credible standards.

Download the CGF Sustainability Activation Toolkit here: