SEI York and Trase were commissioned by Belgium’s Federal Public Service for Heath, Food Chain Safety and Environment (FPS Public Health) to assess Belgium’s association with tropical and subtropical deforestation, plus potential biodiversity-linked risks, via its trade and consumption of imported agricultural commodities and products. Using tools such as Trase and SEI’s Input-Output Trade Analysis (IOTA) that underpins the Global Environmental Impacts of Consumption Indicator (GEIC), researchers analysed the deforestation and biodiversity risk associated with Belgium’s supply chains from three perspectives:
- direct trade, which attributed responsibility based on direct supply into Belgium
- re-export adjusted, which accounted for indirect trade pathways to, via, and from Belgium
- consumption-based, which reflected the total impact of commodity use based on items actually consumed in Belgium
The authors found that Belgium’s economy is linked to significant amounts of deforestation risk. Nearly 90% of Belgium’s directly imported deforestation risk is linked to six key commodities: coffee, cocoa, tobacco, soy, cattle, and palm oil.
When the authors compared commodities between perspectives, though similar important commodities emerged, they presented different levels of risk. For instance, though cattle products do not rank highly from the perspective of direct imports, when their impact is considered from a consumption-based perspective they represent the second highest deforestation risk after palm oil.
Deforestation risk is not spread evenly across countries and can occur in hotspots. At a sub-national level risks can be particularly concentrated in locations, as in the case of the Brazilian soy deforestation risk, which is concentrated in just a handful of municipalities. The authors found a similar phenomenon with Indonesian palm oil.
Though the report offered analysis from three different perspectives, the authors recommended that additional comparative work is done to understand how the results compare with other estimates. This would increase confidence and aid understanding of the results. Further analysis was recommended for a number of the statistics and indicators used.
The authors also suggested increasing the number of commodities included in the assessments, including forestry, mining and fisheries, to enhance the relevance of the findings and offer a more comprehensive view of Belgium’s international trade impacts.
They further recommended giving thought to how the information provided in the study could be made more accessible to end-users, including via the development of a more formal indicator of Belgium’s overseas impacts.