Tropical Agriculture, Forests, and Climate

Deforestation releases stored carbon into the atmosphere and is a major contributor to climate change. National Wildlife Federation is working with U.S. and international players and our membership to demonstrate to major private sector retailers and brands the importance of protecting forests and how to best avoid using ingredients in their products that originate from recently cleared tropical rain forests and other carbon-rich lands.


Policy Recommendations: Addressing Drivers of Deforestation

Successful efforts to reduce deforestation and degradation will need to directly address their respective drivers; namely agricultural production for domestic and international supply chains. Therefore, in April 2013, NWF, in collaboration with the Global Canopy Programme ("GCP"), CDP and other sponsors convened government representatives, private sector actors, and civil society participants for a workshop to increase cross-sectoral understanding of the drivers, and to explore a range of potential options for tackling these drivers from both public and private perspectives.

Based on that workshop and subsequent conversations, GCP and NWF propose a toolbox that leverages the actions of governments, businesses and civil society.

Download the report: 

Tools to Address the Drivers of Deforestation through Public and Private Sector Synergies


International Forest Protection - REDD

Since 2007, NWF has been working with governments and NGOs around the world to support the development of an international agreement to protect forests as part of the climate change negotiations; this finally came to pass in November 2013, when an international consensus was achieved during the annual United Nations Climate Change Conference, with the adoption of the "Warsaw Framework for REDD+". This agreement sets out the rules by which countries can be compensated for reducing deforestation. REDD stands for "Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation" and includes important safeguards for local communities and indigenous peoples. The "+" was added to take into account positive measures, such as forest management and enhancement of carbon stock, that have a hand in climate change mitigation.


Promoting Deforestation-Free Beef and Leather

NWF works with multi-stakeholder groups, corporations, civil society and governments to explore innovative solutions towards deforestation-free cattle products.

NWF released a background document at the 2010 UN Climate Change Conference in Cancún, which sets out the steps taken by the Brazilian cattle industry in recent years to reduce its impacts on forests: From Major Driver of Deforestation and Greenhouse Gas Emissions to Forest Guardians? New Developments in Brazil's Amazon Cattle Industry

Download the full report here (PDF)

NWF has continued to be at the forefront of developing solutions to deforestation driven by cattle expansion. We believe that each step from ranch to final product, on sale around the world as beef jerky or sneakers, can play a role in supporting "forest friendly" beef and leather. A 2013 scientific paper, From Amazon pasture to the high street: deforestation and the Brazilian cattle product supply chain lays out the Brazilian cattle supply chain and identifies markets for beef and leather that may be sensitive to market demands for deforestation-free supplies.

Read the paper in Tropical Forest Conservation here (PDF)


Related Links


Fashion Gets a Makeover

For decades, fashion designers have looked to wildlife and the natural world for inspiration. But now they're taking it further. Gucci, the renowned Italian fashion house, is launching the world’s first line of designer handbags made with leather from Rainforest Alliance Certified ranches. These ranches have committed to protect their forests, so purchasing these bags is actually helping to conserve Amazon forest and the wildlife it contains. Learn more...


The Food, Forest and Carbon Challenge

The Food, Forest and Carbon Challenge

Reducing deforestation, addressing climate change and feeding the world’s growing population are three of the biggest challenges facing the planet. To help answer the question of how to produce 70 percent more food by 2050 without destroying the planet, National Wildlife Federation released a report titled The Food, Forest and Carbon Challenge, with recommendations for how to produce enough food without clearing forests and other carbon-rich lands, such as savannahs and wetlands.

The report explores several directions for policymakers, private companies and multi-stakeholder “commodity roundtables” that if implemented today, would help the world address climate and food challenges in the next 50 years.

Download NWF's report: 

The Food, Forest and Carbon Challenge (pdf)

This report stems from the 2011 San Diego Conference: The Role of Commodity Roundtables & Avoided Forest Conversion in Subnational REDD+ Agriculture, Food Security & Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Accounting. Learn more about the workshop here:


Food, Fuel, or Forests? Charting A Responsible U.S. Role in Global Palm Oil Expansion

National Wildlife Federation released a report warning that the increased demand for palm oil—which makes its way into the U.S. in a myriad of food and cosmetic products—may lead to further loss of tropical forests and create new greenhouse gas emissions if palm oil expansion is not managed sustainably.

Palm Plantation

Download the full report here (PDF) 

Palm oil has overtaken soybean and canola as the world’s largest source of vegetable oils. Over the next decade, global demand for vegetable oils and biofuels are expected to rise between 50% and 40% respectively.

However, palm oil expansion has been linked to significant increases in tropical deforestation, social conflict, and emissions of greenhouse gases that result from the clearing and draining of tropical forests and peatlands.

While the majority of plantations are currently in Southeast Asia, the palm oil industry is aggressively branching out into Latin America and Africa.

It is estimated that up to 50% of packaged retail food products now contain palm oil, and U.S. demand may rise sharply in the years ahead. This report sets out the steps U.S. companies can take to play an active role in improving the environmental and social standards of the palm oil industry.



    Working Towards Market-Based Solutions

    National Wildlife Federation is working with international producers, retailers and consumers to develop innovative standards that will eliminate tropical deforestation from major commodity supply chains for:

    • NWF is an active member of the Brazilian Roundtable for Sustainable Livestock (Grupo de Trabalho Pecuária Sustentável - GTPS), as well as a joint working group on forests comprised of GTPS, the Global Roundtable on Sustainable Beef (GRSB) and the Consumer Goods Forum.
    • NWF's international Workshop on Solutions to Deforestation for Cattle Expansion in the Brazilian Amazon brought together for the first time major industry actors, government and non-governmental organizations, to agree on the key building blocks for responsible cattle production in Brazil.
    • NWF advises the Leather Working Group on the inclusion of forest protection measures in their environmental standards for leather production.
    Tropical Forest Products



    Our Other Initiatives

    • Introducing a risk reporting tool, in collaboration with the CDP Forests (formerly Forest Footprint Disclosure Project), that enables major corporations to measure and disclose financial and reputational risks to their operations, posed by their dependence on commodities sourced from recently cleared rainforests.
    • Producing a series of white papers, or "think pieces," that analyze the problem of deforestation for commodity agriculture and propose solutions. The summary of our first white paper: "From Source to Sink" (pdf), documents the tropical forest impacts of major agricultural production, explores the effectiveness of "sustainability standards" and certification systems, and proposes ways to provide financial incentives for production without deforestation.
    • Designing pilot projects that demonstrate the potential for "sustainable commodities" markets to reduce agricultural impacts on tropical forests, and foster best practices.

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    The Amazon-Leather Connection