Deforestation Free Commodities (DEFREE)

Promoting sustainable trade through traceability and deforestation-free verification

Forests fulfil multiple socio-economic functions ranging from carbon sequestration to provision of sustainable raw material, protection from natural hazards and serving as biodiversity hotspots. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, the world has lost 420 million hectares of forest through deforestation over the past 30 years, which is significantly affecting those functions. Agricultural expansion is estimated to cause almost 90% of global deforestation. Seven forest risk commodities (FRC) represent with almost 84% the largest share of EU-driven deforestation: palm oil, soy, timber, cocoa, coffee, beef and natural rubber. Much of the tropical forests that have been converted into agricultural land are used to produce globally traded goods. EU-
consumption of these goods is responsible for about 10% of global deforestation. The European Commission has acknowledged these facts and related responsibility and has therefore proposed a regulation to put an end to causing deforestation. The current proposal for a regulation on deforestation-free products and commodities (DFPC) comprises a legal framework based on mandatory requirements for due diligence for companies placing forest and ecosystem-risk commodities and derived products on the EU market.

Project goals

Objective traceability from the basic material production all the way to the customer is needed to even start assessing whether the regulation was met. Therefore, tracing is the first technology component used in DeFREE: a QR-code based product tag on the product or its cover will allow consumers to trace products back to their origin. In a second step, the remote sensing component assesses, whether deforestation has occurred in the production area and its surroundings since 2020 (the target year of the DFPC regulation).

For example, if a rubber plantation is located in an area which was forest in 2020, this results in a “red flag” meaning the product has caused deforestation. If deforestation was detected not directly at the production site, but close-by, the product gets an “orange flag” meaning a closer look is needed. If there is no recent deforestation in or near the production area, the product gets a “green flag”. Especially in the case of “orange flag”, in situ-data is needed. Such ground data is – especially in tropical and subtropical countries – not easy to obtain. Therefore, crowdsourcing as a third component is used in DeFREE. Crowdsourcing refers to the outsourcing of tasks to a large number of a priori unknown people. Especially for ambiguous satellite data this additional ground data will increase information value.

We will implement test cases for selected commodities in several different countries and regions: For timber, the areas of origin will be mainly in Europe thus also targeting to support circular economy. For cocoa, rubber and coffee, we have test cases in Cote d’Ivoire. For coffee, we have selected additional test cases in Uganda.

Project duration

2023 - 2026

Our partners

The project is funded under the “Austrian Space Applications Programme ASAP” of The Austrian Research Promotion Agency (FFG).