The most ambitious legislative attempt to tackle deforestation worldwide ever

How can companies and governments react to the new EU Deforestation Regulation?

December 11, 2023

UNDP launches suite of training workshops and learning community


The groundbreaking new EU Deforestation Regulation is “the most ambitious legislative attempt to tackle these issues worldwide ever”, according to EU Environment Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevicius. 

The EU says that unless their origins can be traced using geolocation data, the import of commodities including beef, cocoa, coffee, palm oil, soya, rubber, and wood will be prohibited – and this may in future extend to other products such as maize and biodiesel.

This new European Union Regulation, adopted in June, has unleashed a flurry of activity in corporate boardrooms and government offices as organisations try to work out the best way to react to the new requirements, which take effect in 2025.

Responding to concerns from private sector and government partners, UNDP’s Food and Agricultural Commodity Systems Learning Community tapped into more than 10 years of experience in sustainable commodities to stage a series of workshops focusing on specific commodities. This content was wrapped up in a summary session as part of the World Bank’s Food Systems, Land Use and Restoration Impact Program (FOLUR) African Regional Dialogue event in Nairobi in October 2023. The 7 minute video from this session can be viewed HERE.

The new EU Regulation requires companies importing to the EU to produce a due diligence statement showing when and where their commodities were produced. They must provide verifiable information that these crops were not grown on land deforested after 2020 or be subject to significant penalties. 

Cattle, cocoa, coffee, palm oil, soya, rubber, and wood are the commodities in focus. Derived products such as leather and chocolate are also included.

UNDP’s workshops featured case studies of commodity producers already working to meet the requirements; in many respects the new regulation builds on existing certification and transparency foundations, so a key message for participants was that they would not be starting from zero but would already have some of the factors in place in their current operations. UNDP’s Effective Collaborative Action methodology will be central to developing the approaches required – different stakeholders in the value chain must co-ordinate their actions and collaborate to meet the requirements. ECA is already being used in a number of Indonesian palm oil projects which face the EU Deforestation Regulation challenge.

The session focused on Beef featured  a pilot national certification scheme for grazing cattle without deforestation in Costa Rica, set up by an interdisciplinary group led by Corfoga (Costa Rica Livestock Corporation). In the second session, another excellent example of national certification scheme for deforestation-free coffee and cocoa production was explained, this time from Ecuador. 

Sjaak de Blois, Sucafina Head of Sustainability and Agronomy in Uganda, gave valuable on-the-ground insights and warned of unintended consequences of the Regulation:

“Sucafina works in several coffee producing regions around the world, and each context is completely different. In Uganda, a place where deforestation is increasing dramatically, we work with thousands of smallholders who are often not organised in cooperatives like in Kenya for example. This makes the implementation of the EU Regulation more difficult, and a company that imports coffee to Europe can decide to move in a less risky market, leaving thousands of small farmers without an income”. 

Elsewhere in Africa, the Cocoa and Forest Initiative together with the World Resource Institute explained the power of public-private collaboration in making cocoa in Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana more sustainable, and the final session featured the example of Tony Chocolonely, a Dutch confectionery company which is 100% exploitation-free and uses 100% traceable cocoa.

All 4 sessions are available in full HERE, where experts from partner organisations explain the technicalities of the EU Regulation, including the International Trade Organization (ITC), Preferred by Nature, GIZ, AidEnvironment, and Trase.

The UNDP FACS Community will track the continued development of the Regulation as the final details are defined and clarified, and practitioners are encouraged to join the dedicated sub-group on Deforestation-free Value Chains for support as they prepare for 2025.

Other jurisdictions are looking to follow the EU with their own regulations – US lawmakers say the adoption of the EU Regulation adds momentum to their efforts. “If we do nothing, the US will become a dumping ground for commodities that can no longer make their way into Europe.” said Senator Brian Schatz, sponsor of the Forest Act in the US Senate.

As similar regulations spread, the effect will be significant. According to research by campaigners Mighty Earth, if China, India, the US and Japan emulated the key EU legal steps, nearly 75% of the world’s imported deforestation could be eliminated.