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25 Aug 2020

UK: Environment Bill becomes law, following CSO & business pressure on Govt. to introduce due diligence requirements to tackle deforestation

On 25 August 2020, the UK Government announced plans to introduce a new law prohibiting large businesses from using deforestation-linked products. Companies will also be required to carry out due diligence on key commodities, including rubber, soil and palm oil and fines will be imposed for violations. Civil society has welcomed the announcement but called on the government to require due diligence not just for deforestation risks but also for all human rights harms in supply chains.

The UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs launched a consultation seeking input on the plans by 5 October 2020.

On the closing day of the consultation, a group of 20 companies and one association addressed an open letter to the government urging it to tighten the proposed rules, in particular that it should apply to all forms of and not only illegal deforestation, among others. In some landscapes, the letter says 95% of deforestation has been illegal.

The consultation results showed that over 99% of the responses were supportive of the government introducing legislation to reduce deforestation. Consequently, the UK Government introduced new measures to the Environment Bill 2019-2021, including due diligence for businesses to ensure that the forest commodities they use have been produced legally.

In November 2021, after over two years of negotiations, the UK Government passed the Environment Bill into law. The new law entails, amongst other things, the creation of an Office for Environmental Protection, charges on single-use plastic items, as well as a due diligence requirements for businesses with regulated commodities in their supply chains.

Campaigners welcomed the new law, but vowed to continue pressing for stronger provisions, and for tangible implementation of the law on the ground.

More information is available below.