Deforestation Free Funds is a search platform that enables people to find out if their money, in the form of individual investments or an employer-provided 401(k), may be causing tropical deforestation through investment in companies that produce, consume, or finance palm oil - the fastest growing cause of rainforest destruction today.

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Palm oil is far from the only commodity that drives tropical deforestation, and over time we hope to expand the tool to cover other industries that cause rainforest destruction. Deforestation Free Funds begins with palm oil because the unsustainable expansion of this industry is particularly noted for causing social conflict and human rights abuses in tropical countries, driving endangered species to the edge of extinction, and driving Indigenous Peoples off their land. We also begin with palm oil because the last few years have seen significant recognition by the palm oil sector that it needs to scale back its destructive impacts on forests and forest-dwelling people. Similar efforts are desperately needed to rein in the impacts of other forest-destroying commodities like cattle, soy, sugar, timber, and paper and pulp.

If it were up to you, your money wouldn’t be used to finance rainforest destruction. But owning investments in palm oil and other destructive commodities isn’t just a moral question. As more of us recognize that the global climate cannot afford more rainforest destruction, investments in destructive palm oil companies will carry real financial risks. Already, many consumer brands are making efforts to drop palm oil producers that destroy forests and violate human rights, and the market is demanding better practices. By bringing more transparency to the palm oil producers, consumer brands and lenders within the chain of destruction, we hope to keep pushing this trend forward.

Deforestation Free Funds empowers investors to know exactly what they own, to see if their savings are invested in dirty palm oil, to pressure fund managers to implement sustainable investment policies, and to find investment options that support a forest-friendly future.

It is important to note that not all palm oil producers are guilty of the same abuses, and not all consumer brands that use palm oil are directly linked to the worst tropical deforestation. Some companies are making real efforts to reduce the harm that this industry causes – and the goal of Deforestation Free Funds is to help make this happen. But industrial palm oil production generally relies on destructive practices and the risk of forest-destruction is ever-present. By driving transparency in the industry’s financing, we hope to encourage policies and practices that bring about real change.

401(k) retirement plans

For many of us, the majority of our investments are in 401(k) plans offered by our employers. These 401(k)s invest entirely mostly through mutual funds and exchange-traded funds (ETFs). But those funds can invest in a wide array of securities, and it’s not always easy for investors to investigate what’s inside the funds they own. You can spend hours poring over mutual fund prospectuses, and still not fully grasp everything your 401(k) is invested in. Your retirement money may be invested in economically and morally risky palm oil producer companies.

To see what Friends of the Earth recommends you do to ensure your 401(k) is not destroying tropical forests, see Friends of the Earth’s Deforestation Free 401(k) How to Guide.

Because large asset managers and institutional investors are the ultimate decision-makers about how the money they manage is invested, Friends of the Earth is asking institutional investors and asset managers to take responsibility by disclosing their investments in palm oil, committing to Deforestation Free policies, excluding companies that do not meet these policies’ criteria, and repairing the damage by investing only in companies that have strong human rights grievance mechanisms and that practice ecological restoration. To learn more about Friends of the Earth’s campaign to urge institutional investors and asset managers to go Deforestation Free, see Friends of the Earth’s Are You Invested in Exploitation?: Why US investment firms should quit financing conflict palm oil and commit to human rights.

Friends of the Earth

Friends of the Earth-United States is one of 75 national member groups of Friends of the Earth International, a global network representing more than two million activists in 73 different countries. In our efforts to address the challenges facing our planet, we push for the transformations that are needed, not merely the ones that are politically easy. In our efforts to halt tropical deforestation, we believe we need changes in national policies and practices in both producer and consumer countries – but we also believe that both institutional and individual investors have a role to play in reducing harm and driving positive change.

As You Sow

As You Sow promotes environmental and social corporate responsibility through shareholder advocacy, coalition building, innovative legal strategies, and online financial transparency tools. We are the nation’s leading non-profit organization practicing direct shareholder engagement on environmental, social, and governance issues. Founded in 1992, As You Sow believes that corporations must be willing participants in solutions to most of today’s pressing issues; and we believe that shareholders are the single most powerful force for motivating that participation. We use that power to protect health and the environment and to create positive, lasting change in corporate behavior for the long term benefit of humanity.

In September 2015, we launched Fossil Free Funds, a search platform that enables people to find out if their money, in the form of individual investments or an employer-provided 401(k), is being used to extract and consume fossil fuels. Fossil Free Funds empowers investors to know exactly what they own, to see if their savings are invested in dirty energy sources, and to find investment options that support a cleaner, greener future.