Zero Deforestation Hub

A one-stop-shop for timely information, news and resources on commodity-driven deforestation and international climate policy

Commodity-Driven Deforestation

Cattle (Beef & Leather)

Cattle is one of the most widely traded livestock commodities in the world. Other than meat, cattle can provide a multitude of co-products that global consumers use every day such as leather and tallow, which can be respectively used in products like soaps and garments or furniture. Cattle ranching plays a major role in the economic, social, and environmental development of countries around the world. Beef production is an essential part of sustainable food systems and can contribute to the effective management native ecosystems.  At the same time, unsustainable cattle production practices have taken hold in several parts of the world. In South America, unsustainable ranching has led to deforestation and land-use change. Growing demand for beef, leather, and other products is expected to continue to exert significant pressure on ecologically important regions in Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Colombia.
Fortunately, there is an opportunity for cattle ranching to be done well. NWF aims to promote incentives such as sustainability intensification, recovering degraded areas, and improving rural livelihoods. These, combined with robust public policies, strong market-based solutions, and effective transparency within supply chains, can minimize deforestation linked to cattle production in South America.




Soy is nutrient-dense, rich in protein and fast-growing, which has made it a key component in global food production and one of the most widely traded agricultural commodities in the world. Soy can be found in a wide range of food and non-food products, including tofu, margarine, salad dressing and edible oils as well as cosmetics, soaps, and transport fuels. While there are many different uses, the majority of the world’s soy is used as livestock feed for poultry, swine, and cattle.

Over the past several decades, soy production has expanded rapidly across South America. This expansion has driven large scale deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon and Cerrado biomes as well as the Gran Chaco in Argentina and Paraguay. Demand for soy and soy-based products is expected to continue to grow, especially as rising incomes in developing countries leads to increased consumption. This will likely further increase pressures on forests in Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, and elsewhere. NWF is working with partners across South America to incorporate multisectoral approaches for achieving sustainable and deforestation-free soy supply chains, and have developed a set of recommendations for key actors in the soy sector, including producer country governments, soy farmers/producers, financial institutions, investors, and consumers.


Palm Oil

Palm oil – the vegetable oil pressed from the fruit and seeds of the oil palm – is the world’s most widely used vegetable oil. It is used as cooking oil throughout the tropics, but also commonly found in packaged foods, cosmetics, and detergents. About 85% of global production occurs in Indonesia and Malaysia, where oil palm plantations have largely come at the expense of forests and peatlands, but production is also increasing in Africa and Latin America.

The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) is the leading sustainability certification for palm oil, covering almost 19% of global palm oil production. However, prior to the 2018 adoption of the revised Principles and Criteria, it was heavily criticized for failing to prevent deforestation and human rights/labor abuses. In late 2017, NWF, NASA and academic partners published the first peer-reviewed assessment of RSPO certification’s impact on deforestation and fire, and in 2018, the RSPO adopted the High Carbon Stock Approach (HCSA) methodology – a major success in transforming the RSPO into a true no-deforestation standard and bringing it into alignment with private sector market demands and REDD+ goals. NWF is a proud member of both the RSPO and the HCSA Steering Group, sitting on the No Deforestation Joint Steering Group and serving as Co-Chair of the HCSA’s High Forest Cover Landscapes working group. NWF also works with civil society partners in Peru and Colombia to support public-private partnerships for national zero-deforestation palm oil supply chains.



Cocoa, derived from the fruit of the tropical cacao tree, is widely known as the key ingredient in chocolate-making. Cocoa beans undergo various processes like fermentation and drying, and are typically sold to consumers in the form of cocoa powder, chocolate and cocoa butter.  Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana are the top cocoa-producing countries in the world (accounting for 60% of global production) followed by Indonesia, Colombia, and Brazil. Efforts to promote sustainability within the sector have been hampered by illicit farms within protected areas, and insufficient actions from major brands and retailers to exclude non-compliant producers from their supply chains.

The Cocoa and Forests Initiative (CFI) has emerged as the leading international platform for  deforestation-free cocoa supply chains. The initiative was launched in 2017 by the governments of Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire, and Colombia, as well as 35 cocoa and chocolate companies. Facilitated by the World Cocoa Foundation and IDH, the Sustainable Trade Initiative, the initiative was established to set guidelines to stop further conversion of forest for cocoa production, and to restore previously deforested areas. NWF is working to align the due diligence requirements of chocolate companies, including on traceability and monitoring, to help facilitate CFI’s goals. In 2019, NWF was selected to advise the CFI and the governments of Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana on potential service providers for mapping and monitoring. Several demand countries – Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, and the Netherlands – have established national platforms to transition their cocoa supply chains toward sustainable procurement, but still require additional guidance to ensure alignment between their objectives, policies, and requirements. NWF works to help these initiatives most effectively make use of existing ethical supply chain guidance from initiatives such as the Accountability Framework initiative and the High Carbon Stock Approach to transform the sustainability of cocoa value chains.


Natural Climate Solutions

Natural climate solutions (NCS) are strategies that support or enhance the ability of natural systems – like forests, wetlands, and grasslands – to both mitigate climate change (enhancing the removal or storage of carbon) and strategies that increase the resilience of human communities and wildlife populations to the impacts of climate-related natural hazards. The important role of natural ecosystems is enshrined both within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Paris Agreement – particularly activities that reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+). The National Wildlife Federation and our partners have published a Guide to Including Nature in Nationally Determined Contributions, which provides guidance to countries on how they can enhance NDC ambition using Natural Climate Solutions in a manner that is consistent with guidance previously developed through the UNFCCC.


Why are company commitments to reducing deforestation from their supply chains failing and how can companies improve them?

As demonstrated by the NYDF Five Year Assessment Report, company commitments to reduce or eliminate deforestation associated with commodities in their supply chains have largely failed, primarily due to a lack of transparency in monitoring systems, robust commitments, and coordination between large companies.

What role does the European Union (EU) play in driving tropical deforestation?

The EU is among the major global importers of a number of specific commodities associated with deforestation, i.e. palm oil (17%), soy (15%), rubber (25%), beef (41%), maize (30%), cocoa (80%), and coffee (60%). It is therefore incumbent upon EU member nations to take a leading role in mitigating the risk of imported deforestation in their supply chains.

What measures are EU countries taking to stop the import of products linked to deforestation?

The EU is working on a European Green Deal, a roadmap for integrating sustainability considerations into the European economy. The European Commission is working to help create a carbon-neutral EU by 2050. The French Corporate Duty of Vigilance Law establishes a legally-binding obligation for French companies to identify and prevent adverse human rights and environmental impacts resulting from their own activities, as well as those of companies they oversee and those of their subcontractors and suppliers.

What caused the Amazon fires in 2019 and can we expect the same for 2020?

The 2019 Amazon fires were largely anthropogenic in origin—started in order to clear land to make way for ranching and agriculture, leading to immense public outcry from international stakeholders including civil society actors, investors and governments. As a result of public pressure, in 2020, President Bolsonaro of Brazil issued a 120-day moratorium on burning in the Brazilian Amazon and Pantanal region. This ban did little to prevent the spread of uncontrollable fires. In fact, 97% of fires in the Brazilian Amazon occurred after the ban was implemented. 

What can importing countries do to limit the risk of tropical deforestation?

Implementing due diligence laws, engagement with diverse, local stakeholders on deforestation-free policy development, and improving forest governance and administration are just a few measures that importing countries can take to mitigate the risk of tropical deforestation.

For general inquiries, please contact us at

For more information, please contact our experts:

Nathalie Walker (EU deforestation initiatives)-
Simon Hall (Cattle and Soy)-
David Burns (Palm oil and UNFCCC processes)-
Mauricio Bauer (Leather)-
Mariana Empis (Media)-