Having a barbecue? Watch this film...

Have tropical forests been destroyed and workers exploited to create our charcoal?

Summer is in full swing – time to enjoy the outdoors with food cooked on the barbecue! For such a popular activity it’s surprising we don’t often know where the charcoal used to heat barbecues comes from, especially since the origin is not always stated on the bag. This is an issue because 90%¹ of global supply is produced in tropical areas which have links to deforestation and the exploitation of the workers. TFT has discovered a way to find out where charcoal comes from, to help transform the industry.

With between four and twelve kilogrammes of wood needed to produce just one kilogramme of charcoal, you can see how irresponsible forest management practices can lead to much forest clearance. Then there’s the increased demand to factor in; the last decade has seen an increase in charcoal imports to Europe, with Africa responsible for 40%.

But where does supermarket charcoal come from? We have discovered a way to find out, which we share in our new short charcoal film. By measuring the density of charcoal, we are able to confirm if it’s from a tropical forest. We can even identify the species of tree used to make it. We used this methodology to analyse the origin of charcoal bought from leading French supermarkets.

The results showed that transparency is crucial if the industry is to tackle the deforestation and exploitation issues its production is often associated with. More than half the bags from those French supermarkets did not specify the origin of the charcoal. We discovered much of the charcoal was originally tropical wood, so there was a risk it was linked to environmental and social issues.

In 2015, we shared our findings with the French retail industry. We raised their awareness and this led many retailers to change their purchasing policies. More French retailers are now seeking improved supply chain transparency.

It’s not just French retailers who should be concerned. More than 50% of charcoal bags tested in Germany in 2016 contained tropical wood, while 88% did not declare the origin of the wood. Our aim is to continue having a similar positive impact in other countries. Consumers can play their part too – asking their retailers if they know where their charcoal comes from.

Watch our video to find out more.

¹. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)

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