Media Releases - 06 December 2023

New benchmark reveals Australian companies are behind on tackling deforestation

A new benchmark examines whether or not key Australian companies, such as McDonalds, Aldi, Woolworths and Strandbags, are effectively addressing deforestation risk in their supply chains. This cross-industry analysis of deforestation policies and commitments is an Australian-first, and shockingly reveals few companies are satisfactorily responding to Australia’s deforestation crisis according to their publicly available commitments.

Deforestation risk in supply chains exposes companies to a range of financial, reputational, and operational vulnerabilities. The Wilderness Society’s Corporate Deforestation Benchmark analyses the publicly available policies and commitments of influential companies in industries associated with deforestation risk commodities in Australia.

Australia’s globally unique forests and bushlands are still being bulldozed, logged, and burnt to make way for beef pasture, to supply timber, or to mine for bauxite. Rare and endangered forests like the Jarrah forests in WA, old growth forests that are habitat for endangered species like the Swift Parrot in Lutruwita / Tasmania, and vast tracts of high value forests and bushland in Queensland are destroyed for commodities that some of the companies ranked in the benchmark process, manufacture, or sell.

The Benchmark focuses on supply chains for commodities that are connected to deforestation risk: timber, pulp and paper, beef and leather, as well as bauxite for aluminium. The Benchmark scores Australian companies that either have significant market shares within supply chains of one or more of these commodities, or are known or suspected to be associated with deforestation in Australia. Their scores place them into one of four groups: Those who attempt, those who disguise, those who avoid, and those who say nothing. More information on the methodology used is available in the notes to editor section below.

The Wilderness Society believes that the Benchmark reveals that these companies in Australia are laggards compared to international best practice zero-deforestation commitments. It found that:

  • Half of the most influential and exposed companies have no commitment at all to eliminate deforestation from their supply chains.

  • Less than a quarter of the companies assessed had any public plans about how they intend to stop deforestation in their supply chains.

  • Less than 1 in 10 companies assessed either had robust implementation plans, verification systems or had already eliminated deforestation from their activities.

  • Over 9 in 10 companies assessed could not credibly prove, on the basis of public commitments and policies, that they were not involved in deforestation in Australia.

While a number of companies have ranked in the highest category in the Benchmark, like McDonalds, Aldi, and Mars, it doesn’t mean they have all ruled out deforestation from their supply chains, there is still work to do. To achieve deforestation-free supply chains and ensure real impact for forests and wildlife, these companies must enact strong and transparent implementation of their commitments in Australia. Overall, Timberlink, Visy and New Forests were the highest ranking companies according to their publicly available policy commitments, as they state they do not source from native forests.

Companies like Strandbags, Harvey Norman, Hungry Jacks and Carpet Court are listed in the lowest scoring category—those who say nothing. These companies deny or ignore Australia’s deforestation crisis in their public commitments, and by extension their potential involvement.

While eliminating deforestation from supply chains can be complex, the solutions are within reach for many sectors. Individual and industry-wide commitments to deforestation-free practices, time-bound implementation plans, solid verification tools like satellite mapping and on-ground verification and a transparent process for tracking, verifying progress and reporting on it, are all ways in which these companies can transition away from deforestation risk.

Adele Chasson, Corporate Campaigner for the Wilderness Society, said, “This is the first benchmark of its kind in Australia. It is time: consumers, export markets and investors are expecting companies to act on deforestation. They will no longer accept vague statements or silence on this critical issue. Yet this benchmark shows that key companies in Australia are falling short of what’s needed. They need to set strong commitments and plans that are in line with international best practice. And they can do that: the solution is within reach for many industries. Without real action on deforestation, their sustainability statements, net zero plans and whole business models are at risk.”


Why does the Corporate Deforestation Benchmark focus on supply chains in Australia only?

Australia is the only ‘developed’ country on the list of global deforestation hotspots. Yet there has been, so far, limited scrutiny over the quantity and quality of corporate commitments on deforestation. Global initiatives and scorecards often focus on tropical forests, leaving Australia aside. That’s what makes The Uncovered a world first: for the first time, international best practice indicators from initiatives like Forest 500 and the Climate Disclosure Project have been adapted to the Australian context to reveal how well influential companies operating in key supply chains in Australia are addressing deforestation risk.

How were the companies selected? Are the companies assessed directly linked to deforestation?

The Corporate Deforestation Benchmark assesses a set of companies that are publishes as being involved in the production, processing, distribution and retailing of key commodities that drive deforestation in Australia: beef and leather, pulp and paper, timber and bauxite. The companies included in the assessment either have significant market shares within supply chains of one or more of these commodities, or are known or suspected to be associated with deforestation in Australia. Wilderness Society assessed companies that are known to source the above commodities within Australia, and therefore that have exposure to deforestation risk. The Wilderness Society believes that these companies need to ensure and demonstrate that they are not implicated in deforestation in Australia through best practice, transparent commitments and policies. The results of the benchmark reflect companies’ publicly available commitments and policies on deforestation as at the date stated in the relevant publication, and how that compares to international best practice.

How was the methodology developed?

Based on a review of publicly available information, companies were scored against a series of indicators that underpin best practice for mitigating deforestation risk. The international best practice indicators draw on the work of Global Canopy; the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP); and the Accountability Framework Initiative (AFi), and have been adapted to the Australian context in a world first. All assessed companies have been invited to add to the information used and received a score out of 100 points based on the best practice criteria. The results of the assessment shows what public commitments and plans influential companies have in place to remove Australian deforestation from their supply chains.

For more information about the methodology and definitions used, see the overview.