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UK businesses import ban

UK businesses import ban 12 November 2020

Environment Bill: UK businesses to be banned from sourcing through deforesters overseas

 Sarah George

New measures designed to stop UK–based businesses from importing products or materials linked to deforestation abroad have been added to the Environment Bill – but some green groups argue that loopholes will remain.

The Department for Food, the Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra) outlined the measures this morning (11 November), following a recent consultation with businesses and NGOs. More than 60,000 individuals and organisations took part in the consultation, with 99% in favour of tighter legislation.

 

The changes mean that all large, UK–based businesses will need to prove that the ‘forest risk’ commodities they source internationally come from deforestation–free suppliers – or explain why they are unable to do so. Defra classes soy, palm oil, cocoa, beef, leather, rubber and forest products like wood and paper as ‘forest risk’ commodities.

 

Any businesses which do not comply will be subjected to fines. Defra has said it will set the “precise level” of fines in the coming months, as it wants to “move swiftly to bring the Environment Bill into force”. It has also confirmed plans to develop secondary legislation, to be introduced in late 2021 following input from COP26 attendees.

Defra has called the measures “world–leading”, but many green groups and businesses had said they wanted a stricter crackdown. The likes of McDonald’s, Nandos, Nestle, Mondelez and all of the UK’s ‘big seven’ supermarkets spearheaded calls for tighter legislation from the private sector.

“The government’s proposed law is in danger of continuing some of the most damaging deforestation, just because it is deemed ‘legal’ in domestic laws,” Global Witness’ head of forests advocacy and policy Jo Blackman said.

“Crucially, it also turns a blind eye to the money pipeline funding forest destruction by excluding the finance sector. On both these points, the UK government is running contrary to the recommendations of its own Global Resource Initiative taskforce – which earlier this year recommended the introduction of a due diligence obligation covering all deforestation for finance as well as other businesses.”

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