The imperative of human rights due diligence in deforestation
Forests play a pivotal role in maintaining the ecological balance and sustaining life on our planet. However, in recent decades, the world has witnessed the rise of deforestation which is the main driver of climate change and biodiversity loss globally.
The leading driver of deforestation is agricultural expansion, resulting in an annual loss of approximately 10 million hectares of forest. Notably, large-scale commercial agriculture, particularly in the form of cattle ranching and the cultivation of soybean and oil palm, was responsible for 40 percent of tropical deforestation during the period from 2000 to 2010 (according to the FAO, 2020).
In this context, it is crucial to acknowledge that deforestation can lead to human rights abuses. Human rights due diligence serves as a framework that encourages and requires businesses and governments to prevent, mitigate, and address these abuses while promoting sustainable and responsible practices in relation to forests and land use. Recognizing and addressing this connection is essential for protecting both the environment and the rights of affected communities.
Deforestation and human rights due diligence are closely linked, primarily through their impact on indigenous and local communities, labor rights, and the right to a healthy environment. Deforestation can displace these communities and lead to rights violations, while also compromising labor rights and the right to a healthy environment. Human rights due diligence obligates companies and governments to consider and mitigate these impacts, ensuring transparency, participation, and remedies for affected communities, while recognizing the link between environmental and human rights concerns in deforestation-related activities.
What about Latin America?
Forty-nine percent of the total area of Latin America and the Caribbean is covered by forests, representing approximately 22% of the world’s forest area. Between 2010 and 2020, South America lost an average of 2.6 million hectares of forest per year (FAO).
The three largest forests in Latin America are the Amazon Rainforest, spanning mostly in Brazil, Colombia, Peru and Venezuela; the Atlantic Forest, predominantly found in Brazil and the Temperate Rainforest, primarily located in Chile. These vast forest ecosystems are of immense ecological importance, contributing significantly to global biodiversity and climate regulation. The lack of robust institutions to secure land rights often leads to local conflicts, placing most of the countries at a high risk of deforestation and human rights violations.
Beef production through cattle ranching stands as the biggest driver of deforestation in the region. The WWF estimated that cattle ranching is accountable for approximately 65% to 70% of the total deforestation occurring in Latin America and nearly 80% of all deforestation within Brazil.
In response to this crisis, the international community has been increasingly recognizing the urgency of conserving and restoring global forest resources. A new regulatory scenario is beginning to take shape, driven by international agreements, governmental policies, and collaborative efforts across borders. The recently published EUDR (European Union Deforestation Regulation) has added another layer of pressure on the actors of global supply chains to produce zero-deforestation products.
As the regulation requires rigorous due diligence, it presents an opportunity to break the cycle of environmental degradation and human rights abuses. By compelling companies to scrutinize their supply chains, ensure deforestation-free practices and conduct risk-assessments for adverse human rights impacts, it establishes a framework for responsible and sustainable business practices.
In Latin America, Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) may face increased costs and a competitive disadvantage compared to global counterparts due to the need to demonstrate compliance with human rights standards, potentially impacting national exports. Local suppliers, particularly in agriculture, may struggle to meet these requirements, hindering their participation in global supply chains and potentially leading to reduced investments and job losses.
Human rights due diligence (HRDD) is a continuous risk management process to identify, prevent and mitigate adverse human rights impacts. LRQA is a dependable partner when it comes to executing effective HRDD. With our expertise and commitment to ethical business practices, we offer the guidance and support needed to navigate the complex landscape of deforestation and human rights.
LRQA is here to help!
At LRQA, we conduct a data driven complete due diligence process, which includes a detailed risk assessment performed by our digital platform EiQ, the world’s first digital end-to-end supply chain ESG due diligence system. The process includes four key steps:
- Assessing actual and potential human rights impacts
- Integrating the findings and delivering risk mitigation plans
- Tracking the management of impact and remediation over time
- Communicating and reporting how impacts are being addressed
By mapping the supply chain, for both direct and indirect suppliers, we assist clients with supply chain and sustainability risk assessments resulting in a Segmentation and understanding of supply chain risk. We help clients effectively navigate the current supply chain landscape through a proactive approach to risk assessment, risk management and program design, including recommendations for resource prioritization and governance.
If any risks of deforestation are identified, our Assessment Teams can conduct on-site inspections or a comprehensive audit using our responsible sourcing assessment ERSA2.0.
Our holistic solutions help you assess, address, and ultimately mitigate the risks associated with illegal deforestation. This ensures you can align your operations with the highest standards of social and environmental responsibility.
As businesses, we can embrace responsible sourcing practices, conduct due diligence, and collaborate with local communities. As global regulations tighten their grip, LRQA is here to assist you not only with complying but also leading the way towards a sustainable and responsible future.