Deforestation policy

Healthy forests are critical to overcoming the climate emergency and reversing biodiversity loss, ensuring the survival of both the natural world and human civilisation. To decouple agricultural production from deforestation, a combination of measures are needed, and sustainability systems play a key role in this.

In recent years, many initiatives designed to tackle deforestation have been adopted by international institutions, governments, companies, and industry associations in producer and consumer countries. 

While progress has been made, no single policy instrument or voluntary initiative can address all the drivers of unsustainable production alone. A smart mix of policies is needed, where voluntary sustainability systems and standards play a key role alongside other approaches and regulatory action. ISEAL has been working to drive innovation and support policy-making efforts in this area.

Innovating approaches to assessing and addressing deforestation

Forest certification has been effective in improving forest management around the world and a range of certification systems, particularly for agricultural commodities, have increasingly adopted stronger criteria on deforestation, often related to biodiversity criteria. 

Building on this, ISEAL members have been exploring new and improved ways to strengthen and diversify their approaches and programmes. This can range from empowering local communities and supporting local forest management practices, to new ways of using mapping tools, location data and secondary data to get insights into where deforestation risks occur and how to develop effective mitigation strategies. Learn more about these efforts.

ISEAL’s work on landscape and jurisdictional approaches also support initiatives and solutions that tackle deforestation at a scale beyond the production unit, learn more.

Supporting effective anti-deforestation policies and regulations

Stopping deforestation is a priority for many governments. In addition to timber legality laws that have been put in place, regulators are increasingly looking to address a broader range of commodities that drive deforestation. 

One milestone is the European Commission’s proposal for a regulation on deforestation published in 2021, which will require companies trading in forest-risk commodities to undertake a mandatory due diligence process. 

ISEAL and its members have worked closely with partners and policymakers to enhance understanding of the role of credible systems and certification within EU regulation, and how an effective policy can build on them. 

A recent ISEAL policy paper, Addressing deforestation through supply-chain regulations, outlines how legislation building upon the work of credible sustainability systems can have a deeper impact on preventing deforestation. 

Some of the key considerations include:

  • Voluntary systems have laid the foundations for tackling deforestation in various sectors, and they can provide support tools through which companies and governments can effectively implement new legislative requirements
  • They can help streamline company actions and investments and ensure a producer-oriented approach to tackling deforestation
  • They do not absolve operators from their duties and responsibilities under due diligence obligations.

We recommend that new regulations build on voluntary sustainability systems using established global definitions of good practice and credibility, as captured in our Credibility Principles and Codes of Good Practice

For any questions about our work on deforestation policy email