The Zoological Society of London (ZSL) has found that most palm oil companies which have made deforestation pledges lack on-the-ground monitoring to measure their effectiveness.

The environmental charity’s Sustainability Policy Transparency Toolkit (SPOTT) assessed 70 of the world’s most significant palm oil producers managing nearly 9M ha, and found that 49 had committed to some type of deforestation pledge.

However, “without companies monitoring deforestation on the ground and extending their commitments to their entire operations, company pledges to be deforestation-free carry little weight,” said Michael Guindon, ZSL palm oil technical advisor.

The ZSL report, published on 6 November, found that 2017 was the second worst year on record for tropical tree cover loss, seeing 15.8M hectares disappear.

It said companies had different definitions of deforestation, meaning half of those with commitments did not apply them to all types of forests, such as intact or secondary forests. Only 26 companies expected their suppliers to match their commitments, and only 24 provided evidence of how they monitored forest cover across their supply chain.

“This leads to companies being able to ‘meet’ their commitments but while still contributing to forest loss on the ground,” ZSL said.

Eugenie Mathieu, senior SRI analyst at Aviva Investors, said: “A recent report from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change sounded the alarm about the perilous lack of time we have to halt runaway climate change, with the resulting higher risk of drought, flooding, extreme heat and poverty for hundreds of millions of people. Acting to stop deforestation is one of the most effective steps companies can take to prevent this climate breakdown.”