New DEFRA consultation on forest product due diligence has been launched (3 December 2021 - 11 March 2022)
Today the government announced a consultation on new measures ensuring the sustainable procurement of forest products in UK supply chains. This is part of a drive to tackle illegal deforestation, a key commitment of COP26 last month in Glasgow. Businesses, producers, and governments from around the world are being asked to respond to this consultation.
The consultation itself will help to define plans to implement the Environment Act passed November 2021, requiring due diligence from businesses to ensure they are using commodities produced in line with relevant local laws. This is a response to findings that recent tropical deforestation is largely the result of illegal clearance for the purpose of commercial agriculture and timber plantations. Businesses undertaking due diligence will have to show that they have acted and produce annual reports for public scrutiny.
International Environment Minister, Lord Goldsmith said:
Now the Environment Act has passed into law, we have the opportunity to shape these due diligence measures so we are effectively tackling key drivers of deforestation. Alongside introducing these world leading measures, we intend to ensure the global coalition that we brought together last month under the UK presidency at COP26 to commit to halt and reverse forest loss by 2030 becomes reality.
Common forest risk commodities such as beef, soy, coffee, maize, and palm oil are likely be the main targets of this legislation once it is finalised. However, metals such as lithium, cobalt, silver and nickel, which are crucial to many forms of clean energy technology, are also likely to be targeted. At present, the mining of these metals causes significant social and environmental impacts in developing nations.
The exploitation of rare earth elements is also linked with deforestation and forest degradation in some cases. Low energy lighting, electric vehicles, computer hard drives and magnets all contain rare earth elements. Companies that produce these commodities could, depending on the scope of this law, be subject to mandatory due diligence of their supply chain.
This legislation should be a concern for tech manufacturers where useful metals and other rare earth elements are part of the production process. The establishment of due diligence laws globally could lead to higher prices and heavily restricted supplies in the future. techUK believes that transitioning to a circular economy via the combined use of recycled and virgin resources should be the medium-term aim of tech manufacturers. This would be a win-win for the UK tech sector and wider sustainability goals.
Please Members can respond to the consultation here. The deadline is 11 March 2022. If you have any further questions about supply chain due diligence or the circular economy, please don't hesitate to contact craig.melson@techUK.org or adam.young@techUK.org.