Support the FOREST Act

Take illegal deforestation out of US markets

Remove illegally deforested products from entering the US

The bipartisan FOREST Act, introduced in both chambers of Congress, would require companies to trace where products come from and confirm that they are legally produced.

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Forests are facing intense threats across the globe. In 2022, the world lost more than 16 million acres of forest—an area bigger than West Virginia—according to the 2023 Forest Declaration Assessment. Forests are home to most of the world’s life on land. They provide more than 86 million green jobs and resources such as food and fuel that support the livelihoods of billions of people. They are also critical for absorbing and storing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Halting illegal deforestation and conversion to agriculture is critical to protecting people, wildlife, and wild places. The United States must act now to protect forests and communities by stopping illegal deforestation. The Fostering Overseas Rule of Law and Environmentally Sound Trade (FOREST) Act is landmark bipartisan legislation that would require companies to trace where products come from and confirm they are produced legally. The bill is supported by a wide range of US environmental, human rights, and faith-based civil society organizations.¹

What is the FOREST Act?

The FOREST Act is critical to tackling global deforestation, nature loss, international crime, and climate change. The bill would help companies and governments meet their deforestation-free commitments and promote good governance and transparent and accountable global supply chains.

The bill would stop agricultural products from illegally deforested lands from entering the US. It requires companies to be responsible for their sourcing and show they are taking credible action to remove illegality and abuses from their supply chains. The bill would also bring together stakeholders to improve laws, monitoring, assistance, and enforcement in countries experiencing illegal deforestation, fostering collaboration between governments and businesses.

The FOREST Act includes the following provisions to reduce our footprint on the world's forests and address corruption and crime abroad:

  • Prohibit agricultural commodities produced on illegally deforested land from entering the US market.
  • Require companies to carry out and report on risk-based due diligence, including supply chain traceability, on imports of commodities linked to deforestation.
  • Increase US engagement with countries taking meaningful steps to improve governance and reduce deforestation.
  • Strengthen tools to tackle deforestation-related corruption and financial crime.
  • Establish a federal government procurement preference for zero-deforestation products.

Why does stopping deforestation matter?

About two-thirds of global forest cover loss occurs in the tropics and subtropics, where vast deforestation hot spots and the clearing of forests are destroying the irreplaceable benefits and resources that forests provide. Forests are essential for nature, climate, and people. For example, forests mediate the emergence and spread of zoonotic infectious diseases and are our first line of defense against new infectious diseases. Nearly one in three outbreaks of new and emerging diseases is linked to land-use change, including deforestation.

The conversion of native forests, peatlands, grasslands, and other ecosystems often goes hand in hand with violations of human rights, threatening the territories, livelihoods, and lives of Indigenous peoples and local communities. Eliminating deforestation and conversion from agricultural supply chains is a critical step toward protecting intact ecosystems, good jobs, and healthy communities for the future.

What drives deforestation and nature loss?

A primary driver of global nature loss is land-use change to produce a handful of commodities—including palm oil, soy, beef, timber, cocoa, and rubber—that we use and consume every day.

Unsustainable or illegal production also drives significant ecosystem loss outside of tropical forests. For example, between 2001 and 2020, more than 71 million acres of the Cerrado biome, the largest savanna in Latin America and one of the world's biodiversity hot spots, was converted—losing 15% of its total surface.

The impacts on our climate are profound. About one-quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions are caused by agriculture, forestry, and other land uses. To curb the worst impacts of the climate crisis and keep a 1.5 degrees Celsius future within reach, emissions from the food system must decline by about 80% by 2050. This requires halting deforestation and conversion.

Increasingly, companies are committing to removing all deforestation and conversion from their supply chains. Yet, the clearing of forests and other ecosystems continues to accelerate, often in violation of producer countries’ laws. More than 40% of all tropical deforestation results from illegal deforestation for commercial agriculture.

These agricultural products then enter the US and other global markets, competing unfairly with legally produced goods and undermining businesses that follow the rules.

Why do we need the FOREST Act?

Many private and public sector organizations have committed to eliminating deforestation and conversion from supply chains. Unfortunately, this has not resulted in significant changes on the ground.

We need swift action to address the habitat destruction embedded in commodity production and trade.

The US is one of the world’s leading destinations for products resulting from the deforestation and conversion of forests. Legislation and US leadership are essential to driving deforestation- and conversion-free supply chains and creating a level playing field for all businesses.

Other countries are stepping up to do their part. The European Union recently advanced a groundbreaking new law on deforestation-free products. The United Kingdom has already enacted legislation. Together with the FOREST Act, these laws could help remove the worst environmental and human rights abuses from globally traded commodities and the products we use every day.

[1] The following organizations have endorsed the FOREST Act as of Dec. 19, 2023:
Accountability Framework initiative
Accountability Lab
ActionAid USA
Anti-Corruption Data Collective
Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL)
Child Labor Coalition
Climate Advisers
Climate Rights International
Conservation International
Environmental Investigation Agency
Financial Accountability and Corporate Transparency (FACT) Coalition
Foreign Policy for America
Forest Trends
Friends of the Earth
Global Financial Integrity
Global Witness
Human Rights Watch
Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns
Mighty Earth
National Consumers League
National Wildlife Federation
Oregon Zoo
Oxfam America
Plant With Purpose
Public Citizen
Re:wild
Save the Children
Sisters of Mercy of the Americas Justice Team
The Nature Conservancy
The Sentry
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
Wildlife Conservation Society
World Wildlife Fund