Weyerhaeuser, M&S, L'Oreal Among Leaders in First Forest Footprint Report

Weyerhaeuser, M&S, L'Oreal Among Leaders in First Forest Footprint Report

A handful of international companies are well aware of their forest impacts, and are working to minimize those impacts, although the vast majority of firms have yet to take dedicated action.

That is the top-level finding of the first-ever Forest Footprint Disclosure (FFD) report, released yesterday by the eponymous group. In response to 217 surveys sent to leading international brands, just 35 firms filled out and returned the questionnaire.

It's taken several years for carbon footprinting to gain any sort of hold in the awareness of businesses and the public at large, so it is perhaps no surprise that responses to a new survey asking firms to measure their forest footprints only trickled in.

{related_content}"This is a very promising start in our first year," Tracey Campbell, the director of FFD, said in a statement. "We have raised the profile of the links between deforestation and commodities, informing the business community about the issue, and we plan to build on this initial engagement in future years." The group added that several firms have said that they intend to collect and report this data for the 2010 FFD survey.

The FFD survey asks companies to disclose data along 11 topics, including what forest materials are acquired, how closely companies track their supply chains, how they report their data, and how closely they track risks and opportunities from their forest impacts.

Despite the low response rate, the FFD named 10 of the companies as top performers in their sectors, including U.S.-based paper products firm Weyerhaeuser, French cosmetics company L'Oréal, and two U.K. retailers -- Marks & Spencer and Sainsbury.

Among the telling details of the responses, or lack thereof, to the survey, was that many leading firms are simply not aware of their forest impacts, likely due in large part to the complexity of supply chain issues in general.

In addition to posing operational and reputational risks for companies that are unaware of their impacts, deforestation is a growing issue at the center of the debate about ways to limit global warming.

"There will be no solution to climate change without a solution to deforestation and in the last decade, business has become the fastest growing driver of this global emergency," said Andrew Mitchell, the chairman of the FFD's Steering Committee. "Our disclosure approach is intended to make companies sit up and take notice of their corporate responsibility to make downsizing their Forest Footprint a priority."

"Consumers are increasingly aware of the issue of deforestation and are favouring those brands and companies which can demonstrate a clear link to sustainably sourced commodities," Campbell added. "Investors will want to know which companies are facing up to the challenges."

The full FFD report is available for download from GreenBiz.com; for more details about the project, as well as information about a planned second round of survey requests for mid-2010, visit ForestDisclosure.com.

Photo CC-licensed by Flickr user paraflyer.