In December, 2018, the European Commission (EC) published a roadmap on “Deforestation and Forest Degradation.” WFTO-Europe submitted feedback for this on 15th January, stressing poverty as a root cause driving marginalised producer communities of products like coffee and cocoa to clear forest to increase land for cultivation.

In its feedback, WFTO-Europe called on the European Commission to include in its policies against deforestation legally binding measures. So far, only voluntary measures have been considered, though they are much less effective in addressing the issues and bringing change in corporate malpractices. In particular, we have – together with the FTAO, Fern and other Civil Society Organisations – called for the implementation of Human Rights Due Diligence (HRDD) legislation also in this area, which would be the best means towards mitigating the issue of deforestation while at the same time safe-guarding the rights and livelihoods of the most vulnerable groups in those international supply chains that contribute in particular to deforestation and forest degradation.

The Roadmap itself is “non-legislative,” which means it will, most likely, not in itself lead to legislation on the area. The EC has already in March 2018, conducted a feasibility study concluding that new legislation would be most effective in addressing deforestation.

There is still reason to be hopeful, since the EU Timber Regulation, banning wood from illegal logging from being exported to the EU, developed out of a similar process. The so-called Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Action Plan was agreed in 2003, and did not contain any mention of regulation. Instead, it laid out a process of reviewing feasibility and impact, which eventually led to the EU Timber Regulation that came into force in 2013. In fact, Fern, FTAO, others and WFTO-Europe, all referred the EC to exactly this regulation to highlight what kind of measures would be needed.

Both coffee and cocoa, among other agricultural products, are mentioned in the EC roadmap as so-called Forest Risk Agricultural Commodities (FRAC’s). Indeed, the study on coffee by le BASIC commissioned by Commerce Équitable France and Max Haavelar France, tells a similar story: Being unable to get a decent price for their product, coffee farmers and workers are driven to clear forest to get more land to increase their yields.

This is where Fair Trade takes action: Le BASIC’s study shows that Fairtrade certification has positively impacted deforestation – among other things – by moving farmers and workers closer to the local living wage. In combination with organic certification, results were even better.

This further substantiates our claim that Fair Trade is an alternative business model that contributes to sustainable development, production and consumption. It is a holistic model, which avoids the excesses of the prevailing economic models by putting people and planet before a narrow focus on profit at all costs.