Poll: Deforestation tops environmental agenda for EU consumers

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages/luoman
© GettyImages/luoman

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Deforestation is the biggest environmental concern across most EU countries, with almost 8 in 10 Europeans (77%) saying they are worried about the destruction and degradation of the world’s forests.

This is one of several results emerging from a new Pan-European poll of nine countries across the North, South, East and West of the EU, conducted by market research firm Globescan,

The survey shows that an overwhelming majority of Europeans (82%) believe businesses should not sell products that destroy the world’s forests and think (78%) that the government needs to ban products that drive deforestation. When informed that the EU Commission (EC) has proposed such a law, support rises to 81%.

The EC’s proposal aims to reduce deforestation by setting targets for commodities linked to a high risk of deforestation, such as soy, beef, palm oil or coffee. The European Parliament is set to vote on the draft law next Tuesday, September 13.  

The poll

The consumer survey, undertaken by Globescan, was commissioned for a broad coalition of environmental and consumer organizations including Fern, WWF EU Office, Ecologistas en Acción, Envol Vert, Deutsche Umwelthilfe, CECU, Adiconsum, DECO, Zero, Verdens Skove to understand consumer attitudes towards the EU Deforestation Free Law in Austria, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, and Sweden. 

The survey was conducted between 10 July 2022 and 28 July 2022 using established online panels. 

The total sample size was 9,000 mainstream consumers across nine EU countries. Quotas were set by age, region, gender, and education. The final sample is weighted to reflect the general population as per the latest available census data.

Consumer power

The findings show nearly three in four Europeans (73%) are ready to act against businesses that make or sell products which drive deforestation - by stop buying from them altogether (37%), or by reducing how much they buy from them (36%). A smaller part of this group (15%) would go as far working to convince others they know to stop buying from them as well.

The risk of losing customers because of ties to deforestation is especially high in Spain and Italy, where nearly half would fully stop buying products from these companies.

Over 8 in 10 (81%) Europeans believe that, in addition to addressing deforestation, the law should require companies to stop selling products that violate the land rights of Indigenous Peoples. Similarly, 82% of people surveyed think the law should cover products that degrade as well as destroy the world’s forests.

Call for draft law to be strengthened

Julia Christian, campaigner at Fern, said that a major takeaway from this poll is that Europeans want policymakers to be bolder in tackling the scourge of deforestation.

“They clearly want MEPs and EU governments to strengthen the draft law. Specifically, Europeans overwhelmingly want the law to require companies to stop selling products that were made by grabbing the land of Indigenous Peoples, who are the best guardians of the forests. MEPs need to show leadership and vote for a strong regulation that requires businesses to uphold communities’ land rights in line with international standards.”

Carlo De Masi, president of the Italian consumer association Adiconsum, added: "The difficulties we are going through, with the energy crisis, the steep increase in the prices of goods and services, starting from those of basic needs, and the pandemic, must not make us forget that there can be no development without sustainability. Protecting fragile forests and ecosystems means ensuring continuity of the natural resources we need. I am pleased that the Italians in the survey are among the staunchest supporters of the law against deforestation. We hope that the European Parliament will join European consumers and support a strong EU Deforestation-Free Law."

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