Supermarkets warn UK risks becoming a leakage market for deforestation

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages/luoman
© GettyImages/luoman

Related tags deforestation Tesco Soy EUDR

UK retailers are calling on the UK government to align with EU deforestation regulation, which came into force in June this year.

The supermarkets including Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Waitrose​, M&S, Lidl, and others, are calling for urgent introduction of legislation in the UK that will ensure direct and indirect suppliers have “deforestation-free supply chains.”

In a letter​ sent to UK environment secretary, Thérèse Coffey, on October 5, the retailers explained that they have just 15 months to meet new EU regulations​ that are aimed at curbing deforestation in all supply chains. By the end of 2024, companies operating in EU countries, as well as Northern Ireland, will not be able to import food and other materials that are linked to deforestation​ in supply chains, including soy, cocoa, coffee, palm oil and wood.

If the UK doesn’t catch up and align its regulations with the EU, the ability to export UK-made produce to Europe is put at risk, argue the signatories, which are members of the Retail Soy Group​.

“This exposure rests not just with our businesses, including a direct exposure in Northern Ireland, but also with their own ability to export British-produced food to our largest trading partner.”

UK Environment Act  

The supermarkets want to the UK government to urgently follow through on its promise to deliver secondary legislation to implement the requirements of the UK Environment Act 2021. 

“Aligning this legislation with the EU’s Deforestation Regulation (EUDR) will help further our collective ambition more efficiently whilst reducing cost and avoiding the UK becoming a leakage market for deforestation. Doing so will also protect British companies by ensuring they can provide the deforestation-free products we have committed to, and which enable access to export markets for both British producers and retailers.”

The letter outlined how, three years ago, the private sector supported the government in introducing a legal requirement for businesses to ensure that consumer product supply chains are deforestation-free.

"Whilst one year on we applauded the government’s actions in taking the first steps towards this through the adoption of the Environment Act 2021, it has now been a further two years without the secondary legislation being in place that would establish this requirement in the market. 

"Despite a global goal to halt deforestation by 2030, the rate of primary forest loss around the world has remained, and even increased by 20% in some areas. As we said in 2020, deforestation cannot be ignored any longer. While UK legislative progress has been delayed, 7.87 million hectares of primary forest has been lost in just the last two years."

The retailers believe that swift implementation of the secondary legislation of the Environment Act wil remove the remaining barriers to transparency and level the playing field throughout the sector.

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