Website Tracks Companies' Promises to Reduce Deforestation

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Hundreds of companies have pledged to reduce their role in the destruction of the world's forests, but how many have kept their promises? An online portal launched on Wednesday aims to hold the companies to their word. The platform, Supply Change, tracks the progress of more than 300 corporate commitments to reduce deforestation. The portal was announced by Forest Trends, a Washington-based organization that promotes sustainable forest management and conservation.

"Transparency through public disclosure is a valuable tool for the world to gauge the corporate community’s progress in eradicating deforestation from key agricultural inputs," Michael Jenkins, Forest Trends founding president and CEO, said in a news release.

A report released by Forest Trends in tandem with the tracking portal says the planet loses more than 6 million hectares (15 million acres) of tropical rainforest a year — an area the size of Sri Lanka. Some of the biggest names in global food production, processing and retailing, including Cargill, McDonalds, Marks & Spencer, Tesco and Walmart, are among the companies that have pledged various actions to tackle deforestation in their supply chains.

New commitments from companies related to reducing deforestation have risen 30 percent year over year since 2009, meaning more companies are taking the problem seriously, the report said. Specific targets include pledges by food companies to make sure the palm oil they purchase for their products meets the standards of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, which prohibits clear-cutting old forests with "high conservation values" to build plantations.

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— Reuters and NBC News staff

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