Governor Newsom Vetoes AB 416, the California Deforestation-Free Procurement Act

AB 416 Vetoed
AB 416 Vetoed

Governor fails to make California the first state in the nation to ensure its government purchases do not contribute to tropical deforestation or Indigenous rights violations

October 6, 2021 – Sacramento, CA – Yesterday, despite the climate crisis raging out of control with atmospheric CO2 blasting through levels unseen in tens of thousands of years, despite the United Nations recent IPCC report calling a “Code Red for Humanity,” and despite strong support from environmental groups across the globe, Governor Gavin Newsom vetoed AB 416, the California Deforestation-free Procurement Act, a bill authored by Assemblymember Ash Kalra (D- San Jose) and cosponsored by Social Compassion in Legislation and Friends of the Earth. The law would have made California the first state in the nation and the leading jurisdiction worldwide to require state procurement contractors to certify that operations and supply chains are not contributing to tropical forest deforestation, intact forest loss, or Indigenous rights violations.

“While the lungs of the Earth whittle away due to wildfires, industrial logging, and plantation conversions, which harm and displace innumerable animal species, I am deeply disappointed that Governor Newsom has decided not to hold California’s state procurement policies accountable,” said Assemblymember Kalra. “We must ensure state purchasing dollars are spent in a way that aligns our commitment to mitigate climate change, protect biodiversity, and value Indigenous rights.

“Without leading the way to incentivize transparency and sustainable practices, California will sadly continue to be an inadvertent contributor to tropical deforestation and the global environmental destruction that accompanies it.”

The bill, which was supported by hundreds of environmental, and human and animal rights organizations, as well as 84.1% of California registered voters, would have required state contractors who provide commodities such as palm oil, soy, cattle, rubber, paper/pulp, and timber to the state to maintain a No Deforestation, No Peat, No Exploitation (NDPE) policy, and provide evidence that their operations are not linked to forest destruction and degradation or abuses of Indigenous peoples’ rights.

“After three years of working on this policy, with all the hearings, all the votes, all the stakeholder meetings, to get this monumental bill to the Governor’s desk only to be vetoed because of a deliberately obtuse recommendation from his staff, which is reflected in the veto message, is a prime example of bureaucratic paralysis,” said Judie Mancuso, Founder and CEO of Social Compassion in Legislation, a cosponsor of the bill. “The administration talks a big game on climate, but this veto illustrates their lack of commitment to walk the walk on the biggest, most pressing issue of our time.”

“Our world needs bold leadership to address the escalating climate crisis, and unfortunately Governor Newsom has failed to live up to that title this year,” Mancuso continued. “We cannot keep kicking the can down the road; the environmental destruction we are all witnessing must be stopped. In vetoing AB 416, our Governor decided to delay yet another year the bold changes needed in saving the lungs of our planet.”

An analysis of California’s own Department of General Services (DGS) procurement data from 2019 was conducted to see if there were state purchases that directly contributed to tropical deforestation. The data conclusively proved there is. It is not a hypothetical that California is contributing to deforestation; for example, the data showed there are millions of dollars in state procurement contracts for rubber that was harvested from recently deforested areas.

The bill also received support from the business community. Asset managers representing over $1.5 trillion dollars also threw their support behind the bill. In their letter to Assemblymember Kalra, the group cited the essential role forests play in combating climate change, reversing biodiversity loss, and protecting human health and human rights. Additionally, in making the business case for AB 416, the letter acknowledged that “many sectors, such as agriculture and the pharmaceutical industry, depend on ecosystem services supported by forests.”

In the Governor’s veto message, he states “this bill’s extensive requirements would create a significant burden on California businesses – particularly small businesses – that are looking to participate in state contracts.”

However, as cosponsors of the bill, Social Compassion in Legislation provided his staff an example of a company doing exactly what would be required in AB 416. The company, Lush Cosmetics, conveyed their approval for the legislation. In their letter to the Governor, Lush Cosmetics’ Ethical Buying Manager, Greg Pinch, outlined how they source commodities.

“We strive to ensure our supply chain of ingredients is compliant with the parameters of AB 416. LUSH prioritizes direct relationships with producers and exporters, removing intermediaries to achieve greater and greater transparency. These relationships are maintained by regular connections between our Ethical Buying team and the people who manage the land. Where possible we choose organic and fair-trade certifications since fair wages are a piece in providing viable economic alternatives to deforestation. As well, through our LUSH Investments program, we build independent agri-businesses that supply LUSH and other cosmetic and natural food ingredient businesses with 100% transparent, ethical, and sustainable materials.”

Despite the example of how ethical companies trace their supply chains, the Governor’s veto message continued with the false presumption that a soybean or any commodity supplier is not able to trace the commodity. Additionally, the message misconstrued the requirements of the bill by overstating what a contractor would have to provide to the state in certifying its source.

“If you don’t know who you are getting it from, guess what? It is probably coming from where they burned down the Amazon and they’re pulling it out cheaply,” said Judie Mancuso, Founder and CEO of Social Compassion in Legislation, one of the bill’s cosponsors, as quoted in a recent AP article. “As long as you close your eyes to where that supply is coming from, we will continue to rape and pillage this Earth until there’s nothing left.”

“Governor Newsom hailed a recent package of climate resilience bills he signed that came along with 15 billion dollars in funding. With closer inspection of those policies, it is apparent that much of the package is reacting to climate change, rather than fighting the underlying cause – carbon emissions,” said Nickolaus Sackett, Director of Legislative Affairs for Social Compassion in Legislation. “While we are thrilled to see efforts to get more zero-emission vehicles on the road, those allocations are only, roughly speaking, a third of the funds for the entire package of bills. The other $10 billion is for actions to protect our communities from the ravages of drought and the effects of the climate crisis. Of course, we applaud that allocation – our communities, especially our underserved communities, deserve that support.”

“But those efforts do not stop or reverse global warming. They only let us survive in the fashion that we are accustomed to for a bit longer as the planet hurdles towards even more destruction. In a few years we will have to pass another “resiliency” package to further help us all survive the effects of this ongoing crisis.”

“Yet, in our discussions with the administration and in the veto message, the sentiment was conveyed that AB 416 would be difficult to implement and that California already does enough. Sadly, this is the mentality allowing for the destruction of our planet. The change required to stop the climate crisis is going to take effort from everybody, effort that will require departments within this administration to lift a finger to ensure our state isn’t driving tropical deforestation.”

Social Compassion in Legislation will continue to work with Assemblymember Kalra and the administration on this important issue.

We cannot thank you all enough for your support. Please consider making a donation to help us continue our vital work.

With gratitude,
Judie Mancuso, founder/CEO/president
Social Compassion in Legislation

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