Dedicated to combating deforestation, EMMA4EU - a new European initiative will roll out innovative training programmes and developing a new profession.
Deforestation, primarily driven by agricultural expansion, is a major factor contributing to climate change and biodiversity loss, especially in tropical countries. The project "Innovation Alliance for Training Programmes for Deforestation-Free Supply Chains in Europe" (EMMA4EU) emerged right on time as a frontrunning European initiative committed to addressing the issue of embedded deforestation.
With this goal, the project aims to develop innovative training solutions to create a new profession: the Deforestation-Free Supply Chain Manager. The training will combine digital, green and interdisciplinarity skills to support the transition to a greener economy.
The hidden culprits of deforestation and the role of the European Union
In their everyday lives, most people consume products that are highly likely to contribute to deforestation. Among these ‘forest-risk commodities’ such as cattle, wood, oil palm, soy, cocoa, coffee, and rubber- all are potentially significant drivers of deforestation in tropical regions.
Between 1990 and 2020, our planet lost an estimated 420 million hectares of forest, with a devastating annual deforestation rate of 10 million hectares from 2015 to 2020. The European Union is the second-largest importer of commodity-driven deforestation, responsible for 16% of global deforestation and substantially contributing to climate change.
Although there have been many worldwide efforts to tackle deforestation, we are still confronted with significant challenges. These include tracing products and suppliers, conducting due diligence and risk assessment, monitoring land-use changes on the ground, and linking commodity-production systems. Lack of transparency, effectiveness, and regulations complexity can hinder progress. Furthermore, existing regulatory mechanisms are often fragmented and ineffective.
In response to these challenges, the European Commission introduced a regulation on ensuring the trade of deforestation-free products (EU Deforestation Regulation), which prohibits the import or export of key commodities produced on agricultural land which has been deforested after 31st December 2020. December 2020.
EMMA4EU's primary goal: building a “deforestation-free” training network
Despite connections to agriculture, trade and consumption patterns throughout supply chains, deforestation is primarily seen as a “forestry problem”. This absence of a cross-sectoral approach is reflected in the training programmes offered by higher education and vocational training organisations (HEI&VETs). It was precisely from the need to fill this educational gap that the EMMA4EU project, co-financed by the European Commission's Erasmus+ program, was designed.
EMMA4EU aims to bridge the knowledge gap by fostering interdisciplinary connections. The alliance built by the project will bring together higher education institutions, vocational training organisations, businesses, public entities, and NGOs.
Within this project, the alliance will develop innovative training solutions, equipping new professionals with compliance, corporate social responsibility and digital multidisciplinary capacities. This will contribute to creating new professionals that can respond to the aforementioned challenges - Deforestation-Free Supply Chain (DFSC) Managers.
These DFSC professionals will be pivotal in facilitating the transition to more sustainable supply chains for forest-risk commodities and ensuring compliance by the business sector with the EU Deforestation Regulation. Moreover, they will support advancing a more environmentally friendly circular economy and work towards climate neutrality by 2050.
Our journey and upcoming milestones
The EMMA4EU project started its journey in June 2023, with completion scheduled for May 2026. The project brings together a consortium of partners, including ETIFOR SRL; Universita Degli Studi DI Padova; Wageningen University; Albert-Ludwigs Universitaet Freiburg; OpenForests UG; Copenhagen Business School; Stichting Advice and Investigation for Development and Environment; Makerere University, Forema SRL and Preferred by Nature.
In early November, EMMA4EU reached another pivotal moment with the first in-person meeting between all partners from Italy, Denmark, Germany, Netherlands, and Uganda.
The two days brought together the partners’ perspectives and defined the next steps of the project. They have started with the definition of the skills and the collection of good practices to ensure sustainable supply chains needed for the creation of training programmes for VET and university students. The first e-learning course will be available in early 2025, whilst the university programme and the VET programme will kick-off during the second half of that same year.
For more information, please visit the EMMA4EU project website.