Schedule 16 in the UK’s Environment Bill seeks to tackle the UK’s contribution to global deforestation. The proposal establishes a legal framework to address the environmental footprint of the UK’s consumption of forest risk commodities by placing a due diligence requirement on companies.
Given the prevalence of human rights impacts and risks associated with forest risk commodities, this joint NGO briefing highlights that the new legal framework should require UK businesses and the finance sector to ensure that their forest risk commodities are not linked to human rights impacts. Crucially, this should include full protections for the rights of Indigenous Peoples and other forest-dependent communities, including their customary tenure rights and the right to free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) as consistent with international instruments.
This would bring the obligation placed on companies in line with the recommendations provided by an independent taskforce convened by the UK Government, the Global Resource Initiative (GRI), to urgently introduce mandatory human rights and environmental due diligence obligations for businesses and finance institutions with exposure to forest risk commodities in their supply chains or finance activities.
The briefing highlights the need for all deforestation and conversion of ecosystems, whether classified as legal or illegal in producer country law, to be brought into scope. Finally, it sets out recommendations to strengthen the review procedure and include a mechanism to progressively improve the framework, its implementation and enforcement.