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Cracking complexity: How we helped the media explore the link between finance, supply chain and deforestation 

For almost five years, EFI has been actively engaging with media from all around the world to help them explore complex issues related to European and global forests. Under the Lookout Station, a science-media capacity-building initiative, we’ve trained more than 320 editors and journalists through 12 workshops and masterclasses organised in-person and online. Our focus has always been on building a bridge between science and media by offering free training and open platforms to engage with experts. We’ve taken this approach because we believe in making long-term impacts at the individual and an editorial level instead of merely generating immediate media reporting.  

One of our key activities is the Solution Hack for Journalists, a masterclass series aiming to help journalists and editors avoid jumping quickly to conclusions on an issue related to today’s economy and its link to forest-related issues. One of the most obvious is the link between the agricultural commodity trade and deforestation in the tropics. This global link has also been covered in a previous edition co-organised with the Finnish innovation fund, Sitra.  

Now we’ve added ‘finance’, another complex and unexplored topic, to the mix in our fourth edition of the Solution Hack for Journalists.   

On 31 January, 4 and 8 February 2022, a three-part online masterclass on ‘Hacking Finance to End Deforestation was organised to feature some of the new research insights from NewGo! – New Ways for Forest Governance, a project of EFI’s Governance Programme. The topic was largely unaddressed in the media and there was a strong demand for training to explore the link between the global supply chain, finance and deforestation. From 200 applications, we selected 25 editors and journalists from international media, ranging from the New York Times, CNN and the national broadcasters in the Netherlands and Ghana, to online media like InfoCongo in DRC to freelance journalists in Colombia, Ivory Coast and the USA.  

The “Masterclass” consists of 25 journalists end editors from international media,

The masterclass kicked off with a session exploring a real-life example of deforestation driven by the global agricultural commodity trade and how financial institutions can directly or indirectly contribute to financing commodity-producing companies. Ahead of the session, the participants received a step-by-step guide explaining how to identify key actors involved in the case study on beef from Brazil, using Trase and Forest500. With some self-learning ahead of the session, the journalists brought technical questions to ask the Trase engagement lead. This interactive session helped the group to master the tool and discover new leads and insights through supply chain and finance data.  

After getting a holistic overview of the issues arising from deforestation through the Brazilian case study, we went deeper into the complex world of finance and its role in driving deforestation and closing the finance gap for forests and forest-related activities such as forest landscape restoration. The key discussion points were the current challenges to make finance “deforestation-free” and how to overcome barriers and bottlenecks to increase finance for forest protection, sustainable management and restoration. Experts from the World Economic Forum, Cornell University and Storebrand Asset Management were invited to share their insights.  

What role media plays in facilitating sustainable shifts and end deforestation?

To reflect on the new findings and insights from these sessions, the final session brought the group back to focus on the ‘big role’ the media can and should play in facilitating sustainable shifts and putting an end to deforestation. To inspire the group, journalists from the Panama Papers and the Solutions Journalism Network joined the group to share their experiences and new perspectives on “doing journalism differently”. The group then discussed the topics that deserve more media attention and the actions they want to take when going back to their day-to-day routine.  

The next Solution Hack for Journalists will centre on the role of forests in urban planning and city and will be organised at the end of the year.  

The Solution Hack for Journalists: Hacking Finance to End Deforestation was organised in collaboration with Trase, a tool powered by the Stockholm Environmental Institute and Global Canopy under NewGo! – New Ways for Forest Governance, funded by the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL).  

Read also:  

Sustainable Finance: How does it link to forests? By Anna Begemann 

The financial sector: friend or foe of forests? By Anna Begemann 

Video: Why are we researching corporate zero-deforestation commitments? By Mathias Cramm 

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