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), is exposed to companies, banks, and brands driving deforestation around the world. Deforestation Free Funds specifically looks at companies that produce, trade, consume, or finance palm oil, rubber, soy, cattle, wood products and pulp & paper – the chief commodities responsible for rainforest destruction.
Deforestation and degradation of vast swaths of land in order to grow and produce commodities such as palm oil, pulp and paper, soy, rubber, and beef are responsible for almost one quarter of all global greenhouse gas emissions and for unprecedented species extinction. Simultaneously, the occupation of large areas of land for industrial plantation agriculture is a leading cause of violent land conflicts, as these activities tend to dispossess and displace indigenous peoples and local communities.
If it were up to you, your money wouldn’t be used to finance rainforest destruction or human rights violations. But owning investments in deforestation-linked commodities isn’t simply an environmental or moral question. Investments in destructive commodities carry real financial risks. Some investors have blacklisted destructive palm oil companies from their portfolios; others have policies to “engage” with deforestation-risk companies to improve their business practices. Many consumer brands are canceling contracts with “conflict palm oil” producers – the ones that carry on destroying forests and violating human rights – as the market demands better practices.
By bringing more transparency to the producers, consumer brands and lenders within the chain of rainforest destruction, we hope to keep pushing this trend forward.
Deforestation Free Funds empowers everyday investors – those of us who are not investment professionals but who may have a 401(k) or an IRA – to know exactly what they own, to see if their savings are invested in destructive commodities, to pressure fund managers to implement sustainable investment policies, and to find investment options that support a forest-friendly future.
Of course, not all agricultural commodity producers are guilty of the same abuses, and not all consumer brands are directly linked to the worst tropical deforestation. Some companies are making real efforts to reduce harm – and the goal of Deforestation Free Funds is to help make this happen. But by and large, industrial agricultural production often relies on destructive practices that put people and the planet at risk. By driving transparency, we hope to encourage policies and practices that bring about real change.
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 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. Since then, our Invest Your Values program has grown to empower investors to know exactly what they own, and to find investment options that support their values. In addition to Deforestation Free Funds and Fossil Free Funds, we’ve built Gender Equality Funds, Weapon Free Funds, Tobacco Free Funds, and Gun Free Funds.