Major Drivers of Deforestation

Photo: Rachel Kramer/NWF

In the last decade, over half of global forest and peat land destruction has taken place to meet increasing consumer demand for a few key commodities, including cattle products, oil palm, and soy:

  • Cattle expansion is driven by increasing global demand for everything from beef and leather shoes, apparel and furniture, to pet products.
  • Palm oil occurs as an ingredient in a wide spectrum of processed consumer products, from soap to potato chips.
  • Soy is used in a range of products from animal feed to protein shakes.

These products find their way to the United States either directly or indirectly, via other countries. Beef and leather products, for example, may have originated in Brazil, even if they say “made in China” or “made in Italy” on their labels.

Did you know?

  • Between 1990 and 2005, at least 55% of the expansion of oil palm production in Indonesia and Malaysia occurred through forest clearing.
  • One-third of global cropland is currently used to grow animal feed.
  • More than one-quarter of our planet’s total land surface is used for livestock grazing.
  • The majority of deforestation in the Amazon rainforest has taken  place to make way for pasture land for cattle, with 80% deforested land in Brazil used for cattle grazing.

There are things we can do to help protect forests. Consumers play a vital role in influencing suppliers to adopt sustainability standards that reduce impacts on global forests, while benefiting local livelihoods and protecting ecosystems. Companies need to track the sources of the oil palm, beef and leather ingredients in the products they market. By pledging support for sustainably-produced commodities, consumers can assert positive pressure on companies to make changes in their supply-chains that certify their raw materials did not come from areas of recent tropical deforestation.

Forest Issues

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