E-Discussion: L’Oreal, Nestlé & others commit to zero deforestation, but where are the youth?

A growing list of large companies have recognized that if they want to be able to source products well into the future, they needed to change their practices. Jesús Pérez Pacheco/flickr.

A growing list of large companies have recognized that if they want to be able to source products well into the future, they needed to change their practices. Jesús Pérez Pacheco/flickr.

By Luke Pritchard, moderator of the investment discussion at the youth session. Share your thoughts by commenting at the end of this blogpost!

Kit Kat. CoverGirl lipstick. Oreos. Domino’s Pizza. Xerox paper. These and many other thousands of products have, at some point, been linked to huge deforestation in Southeast Asia.

But times are changing. A growing list of large companies such as L’Oreal, Nestle, Asia Pulp and Paper, Proctor and Gamble, Wilmar and Unilever have recognized that if they want to be able to source products well into the future, they needed to change their practices.

Over the past few years, many of these companies have made pledges to ensure that their products are “deforestation free”. This means they are making efforts to keep better track of how their products are sourced, so they can ensure that none of the materials they are using or the products they sell drive tropical deforestation.

This movement is gaining momentum and many believe it will change the way products are sourced, made, bought and sold in future.

All this progress is promising. But what role have youth played?

We have not played a significant role in pushing to ensure deforestation-free policies are implemented in an equitable and fair manner.

The absence of our voice from the dialogue is concerning.

Youth will be most impacted by these policies. In the coming decades, we will be charged with ensuring their effective implementation.

Southeast Asia is a hub for commodity production. More than ever, young people in the region need to get involved in green investment conversations and actions.

But the responsibility isn’t just on young people. The private sector needs to actively facilitate our involvement in the development of green-investment policies such as deforestation free commitments.

I’m keen to hear your ideas:

  1. What can young people do to encourage green investment policies such as (deforestation free products) in Southeast Asia? Are there any policies in particular that need our urgent attention?
  2. Are there lessons we can learn from other sectors, or other regions of the world that can be the basis of a model for more active youth involvement?

Here are some interesting articles on the subject:

A business guide to a deforestation-free supply chain

Will zero deforestation commitments save Indonesia’s forests?

Is Palm Oil-Driven Deforestation the Secret Ingredient in Your Favorite Products?

15 Responses to "E-Discussion: L’Oreal, Nestlé & others commit to zero deforestation, but where are the youth?"

  1. Thasia Paulina Ginting Posted on May 1, 2014 at 10:57 pm

    The main point is there are opportunity cost between food and forest. That’s depend to our choices. How the ways you consume and how far your ways give impact to your nature. The economic growth is important but the problem is how we manage the growth without destroy our nature. The 1st thing that we can give as a youth is our attantion. Make as many research,FGD about nature sustainability and publish it. Even in our personal blog. Trying to find the alternative energy based on nature. Trying to find out the substitution goods of palm oil and the others. It’s like the sound of our young tought. The 2nd is start the change from our self. Make the nature as our friend.there are many things that we can do. Start from our waste management, keep your needed good not your wanted goods, etc. That’s gonna be the exponential impact. 1 2 4 8 16 32 and so on. That’s gonna give more impacts to the others. Never let the other think that you are nothing because you’re young. Because when we’re young we can give many things

  2. m. arif w. Posted on April 27, 2014 at 8:14 pm

    I think this is era related modern era, so that the revolution can be carried everywhere. Want to change something? If we have strong supporters, we can change something.
    I do not want to get involved and participate at fault for the extinction of the tiger ( for example) and deforestation when I shave or eat chocolate.
    Forests are wealth to be managed sustainably for the benefit of the whole community
    This world has a lot of community / NGO engaged in saving the environment, flora and fauna. If all NGOs were merged into one which has one aim and throw all their ego, they can change a lot of things, especially groups of young people helping them as IFSA and etc.. because we have the same basic goal is for a better future.

  3. @hanaflorism Posted on April 25, 2014 at 5:18 pm

    What young people can do is make an action. Many of them just make summit, talkshow, and etc but they didn’t make an action to solve those problems. The action can be a discussion with the real action. Like, after they did the discussion they go to the authorized government. They make a diplomacy with authorized government.

    • Luke Posted on April 28, 2014 at 11:50 pm

      Good point, far too often events which bring the international community together to discuss important issues do not result in tangible actions. For youth to become more involved and engaged in the issues being discussed at Forests Summit Asia they have to do much more than just talk, but also create follow-through actions which will be implemented after the summit.

  4. Miftah Rahman Posted on April 24, 2014 at 7:03 am

    I think something that important to note is how to know that the company is already deforestation –
    free or carry out sustainable forest management. I think certification is the
    answer and something quite new in south East Asia. Some certifications have
    been made internationally but sometimes the certification standards refers to
    the general state of all countries, but for some countries with its uniqueness
    (social, economic and ecological ) then it becomes less appropriate standards .
    In this case the youth can use their skills in scientific thinking and social
    closeness to the people without any political intervention or the interests of
    any group and of course the youth as consumers (the majority of
    consumers) as one important viewpoint in setting criteria certification.
    When youth participate in the preparation of the certification, the
    certification is expected in accordance with the circumstances and the
    uniqueness of the country whit a wider viewpoint. The youth can ask the
    organization which administers the certification to open up to the youth to be
    involved and of course on the condition that the youth represent formal
    organizations that match their interests and abilities in the field, and
    I believe youth can play the role in this case

  5. Miftah Rahman Posted on April 24, 2014 at 2:49 am

    I think the thing to note is how to know that the company is already deforestation – free or carry out sustainable forest management. I think forest certification is the answer and something quite new in south East Asia. Some certifications have been made internationally but sometimes the certification standards refers to the general state of all countries, but for some countries with its uniqueness (social, economic and ecological ) then it becomes less appropriate standards . In this case the youth can use their skills in scientific thinking and social closeness to the people without any political intervention or the interests of any group and of course the youth as consumers (the majority of consumers I think) as one important viewpoint in setting criteria certification. When youth participate in the preparation of the certification, the certification is expected in accordance with the circumstances and the uniqueness of the country whit a wider viewpoint. The youth can ask the organization which administers the certification to open up to the youth to be involved and of course on the condition that the youth represent formal organizations that match their interests and abilities in the field, and I believe the youth can play a role in this case

  6. olivia Posted on April 22, 2014 at 7:33 am

    What can young people do to encourage green investment policies such
    as (deforestation free products) in Southeast Asia?
    – I think it all comes down to mobilizing large groups of people to make companies and governments pay attention. In the case of the power youth has, I think this comes down to young people creating a ripple effect starting with their smaller communities, such as universities and colleges. If enough students get the university administration on their side, there is potential to encourage green investment policies or at least for companies to adopt these from the pressure of networks of higher learning institutions. As they say, power in numbers. If this were successful, it would not only be small groups of students here and there advocating for a cause, but it would be the universities themselves backing them up.

    Are there lessons we can learn from other sectors, or other regions
    of the world that can be the basis of a model for more active youth
    involvement?
    – One relatively successful example, or at least successful in its first phase, was a campaign started by students at the University of British Columbia, Canada, to ban the use of bottled water on campus. Driven by a motivated group of students (supported by the already-existing campus group Common Energy), the initiative launched a marketing campaign (“Tap That UBC”) with well-researched facts, a working website, a name that appealed to the students and the school spirit, a very clear goal, and a cool logo, to promote drinking tap water and stop buying bottled water. They also collected 3,000+ signatures from students in an online petition that made the University respond to the concerns. A committee was created by UBC to review the issue and eventually ban plastic bottles on campus – directly affecting the many suppliers that sell huge quantities of plastic bottles to UBC. Currently, it seems the campaign has died off now that the University has created this committee, but it was one example of many students coming together for a cause they believed in, and one that was easy to support because of the way it was presented to them.

    Unfortunately, there is a lot of apathy from youth nowadays, and the internet brings too many causes worth supporting to our attention – so many that people feel overwhelmed. On the bright side, in this day and age of virtual communication, signing an online petition, sharing a post, and carrying out some “slacktivism” is at our fingertips. There is just a need for good and localized leadership, and of course resources (e.g. online platforms for collecting petitions, information and facts about the issue at hand and how it can be applied to specific universities, resources for creating clear goals specific to each smaller youth community).

    So, going back to the issue of active youth involvement regarding the green investment policies, I think a starting point could be answering the question “what impact can schools and universities have if they lobbied for x and y issue impacting their campus e.g. through reducing/eliminating university-wide purchases from z companies?” If they have potential to make multinational corporations take note, then students at each institution would have a clear goal and to target (specific to their community), instead of the overwhelming task of “stopping deforestation”. The International Forestry Students’ Associations (IFSA), already has connections and Local Committees with many Universities in SE Asia, and could act as a platform for directing resources and support to smaller groups of students advocating for changes within their Universities.

    • Sarah IFSA Posted on April 22, 2014 at 9:18 am

      That’s a really good point Olivia, about the power of students to affect change in their universities. It reminds me of a recent/current campaigns focussed on my university’s, and also a large uni based superannuation (pay/investment) fund’s, investment in non renewable energy sources. While much of this campaigning is not just from youth/students (eg. connected to international campaigns such as ‘Go Fossil Free’), there is a huge on-campus and youth presence (eg http://www.fossilfreemu.org/).

      If we are asking ‘what can we as youth do to stop deforestation linked to product x/y/z’ then yes, the question is overwhelming. But we all have the potential to enact change in our local communities, and what better community than our universities?

      Of course, not all young people are in a university, but many are involved in youth groups, all the way from the grass roots up to a higher level. It’s about harnessing the power of these groups and networks for collective advocacy!

      • Luke Posted on April 22, 2014 at 11:22 pm

        I agree with both of you that local universities can be strong catalysts for change and incubators of innovation. Divestment campaigns, as Sarah mentioned, have been effective at some universities and Olivia gave another great example of students organizing for change at the University of British Columbia. Certainly the ability for such campaigns to be effective requires coordination and a unified voice as Olivia noted. It is great that IFSA could act as a platform to help unify the youth voice from different universities throughout SE Asia.

        I wonder if it would be helpful to have such a platform more formalized? For example create something like an official “Green Investments Committee” which coordinates with universities throughout SE Asia to inform policy and investment decisions related to forests and climate change.

  7. Nicole Posted on April 21, 2014 at 8:32 pm

    These discussions also shouldn’t be just about palm-oil but what else are these companies doing. L’Oreal still tests on animals for the Chinese market, Nestle still have a bad rap for excessive marketing of formula to people in third world countries, and sell huge amounts of plastic bottled water worldwide promoting it over other methods of gaining healthy water. It seems they have a ‘commitment’ to reducing deforestation because it’s getting trendy … and lots of all the other things they do are forgotten. I think about it a lot when I see people touting so-called ‘cruelty free’/eco products … which are full of palm oil. I think the conversation needs to be more holistic than just one or the other.

    • Luke Posted on April 22, 2014 at 12:28 pm

      The issue of deforestation free commitments is particularly pertinent to the Forests Asia Summit, but as you say there are certainly many more issues out there. I wonder how the voice of youth can be raised to address some of the more pressing environmental issues in the region? Is there a particular forum, tool, or mechanism (either existing or that could be created) that youth in SE Asia can use to influence green investment policies and decision?

      • Sarah IFSA Posted on April 23, 2014 at 1:24 pm

        It would be interesting to know the stats on what proportion of consumers of particular products are ‘youth’. eg if companies were aware that the majority of people who use x lipstick/eat x product, are young people, and if a youth consumer advocacy body existed, this would send a strong message that our voice and actions need to be taken into account

  8. john matthews Posted on April 15, 2014 at 8:41 pm

    Would love to know if there are any companies out there who not only commit to be “deforestation-free” but to “re-forestation”, to make up for the damage they made in the past… Those would really deserve my respect!

    • Sarah IFSA Posted on April 16, 2014 at 6:06 pm

      That’s definitely an interesting idea! I’m not sure if any company is doing that….perhaps consumers would be more prepared to pay a price premium if it was going to something tangible like this? Retrospective offsetting?

    • Luke Posted on April 22, 2014 at 2:47 am

      Interesting idea John, I don’t know of any companies that
      are actively engaged in such practices.
      Reforestation, however, will inevitably be a part of many companies’
      strategies to achieve net zero deforestation.
      However, it is critical that these policies are implemented sensibly. Some experts have warned that net zero
      deforestation goals, if not developed in a responsible manner, could actually
      result in increased loss of native forest cover and decreased biodiversity (http://news.mongabay.com/2013/1114-zero-net-deforestation-wrong-target.html).

      I wonder how youth can organize themselves to encourage the
      development of policies which will maximize biodiversity conservation, have
      positive climate benefits, and include the effective participation of local
      communities in SE Asia?

Leave a Reply