Snapshot of the World’s Forests
View the high resolution version of today’s graphic by clicking here.
Forests cover over 30% of the world’s land, but human activity is chipping away at the tree line.
At the outset of the 20th century, there was approximately 31 million square miles (50 million square km) of forest around the world. Today, that number has shrunk to less than 25 million square miles (40 million square km). Much of this decline can be attributed to expanding agricultural land use and increasing demand for wood and paper products.
Source: World Bank
The growth and decline of forest cover is hardly uniform. Deserts, farmland, and urban areas ebb and flow around the world, and while some countries are rapidly removing trees from their ecosystem, others are seeing increases in their forest cover.
Receding Leaf Line
Since 1990, global forested area has shrunk by 2 million square miles (3.1 million square km), with many of those losses occurring in South America and Sub-Saharan Africa.
The Amazon Rainforest, one of the most important carbon sinks on the planet, has faced intense pressure from human activity over the last few decades. Brazil’s expanding network of roads has been critical for economic development, but the landscape often pays the price as the country increases its GDP per capita.
Rainforest turns to farmland in Brazil’s Rondônia state: 1984–2016
Across the Atlantic Ocean, Africa is grappling with deforestation.
West Africa, for example, has lost a shocking 90% of its forest cover over the last century – in a number of countries, all of the forest outside of protected areas has been logged, while illegal logging threatens parks and reserves.
If nothing is done, we may lose everything.
– Abraham Baffoe, Africa regional director at Proforest
Images of slash-and-burn land clearing and denuded hillsides grab the headlines, however, there are a few places in the world where forests are expanding.
Europe, in particular, has seen widespread regeneration of forests over the past century.
China is another, perhaps surprising, place where there have been big increases in forested areas.
Each year, dust storms blowing in from the expanding Gobi Desert displace as much as 800 square miles (2,000 square km) of topsoil and damage crops adjacent to the expanding desert. In response, the government created the Three-North Shelterbelt Program, which they hope will halt desertification. Thousands of miles of newly-planted vegetation will act like a wall, containing the spread of the Gobi Desert.
The Big Picture
Activities that lead to deforestation differ from region to region, but they’re always economic in nature. Palm oil, logging, raising cattle, and even charcoal production are all ways people can pull themselves out of poverty in developing countries.
The good news is that as per capita incomes in developing countries continue to rise, pressure on forests should lessen.
This theory is best visualized by Kuznets Curve, which demonstrates a link between economic development and environmental degradation.
Click here to view the full sized version.
In regions with lax enforcement, corruption, and a large population of people living below the poverty line, deforestation could remain a problem until economic conditions improve. Thankfully, the five countries with the most forest cover – Russia, Brazil, Canada, U.S., and China – are on or are moving towards a more favorable side of the curve.
Another bright spot in this story is that governments are increasingly protecting habitat in the form of nature reserves and national parks. Since 1990, the amount of nationally protected land in the world has nearly doubled.
Mapped: The Countries With the Most Sustainable Corporate Giants
The world’s most sustainable corporations have a monumental impact on social and environmental issues. See where they are located in this visualization.
Mapped: The Countries With the Most Sustainable Corporate Giants
From plastic-filled oceans to unequal pay, sustainability is a hot topic these days. Many people are wondering how we’ll move the needle on these important issues, and the business world is being pressured to take action.
Society is demanding that companies, both public and private, serve a social purpose. To prosper over time, every company must not only deliver financial performance, but also show how it makes a positive contribution to society.
— Larry Fink, CEO of BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager
Which of the world’s largest companies are stepping up to the plate on these issues?
The Global 100 Index
Today’s visualization pulls data from Corporate Knight’s 2019 Global 100 report, which ranks the most sustainable corporations in the world.
Any public company with revenue of at least $1B USD is screened for various factors such as sufficient sustainability reporting. The resulting corporations are scored on an industry-specific mix of performance metrics in the following areas:
- Resource Management
- Employee Management
- Financial Management
- Clean Revenue
- Supplier Performance
The final ranking represents the top companies from each sector, with the number from each sector based on the relative size of its market capitalization.
Sustainable Corporations by Country
Here’s all the countries that had companies on the list:
|Country||Number of Companies on the Global 100|
The U.S. tops the list with 22 companies – far more than any other country. European countries also dominate the list and have 51 companies on the G100 overall. Notably, the populous countries of India and China have no representation on the list.
The Top 10 Companies
So, which individual companies made the list? Here’s a snapshot of the star players:
|1||Chr. Hansen Holding A/S||Denmark||Food or other Chemical Agents||82.99%|
|2||Kering SA||France||Apparel and Accessories||81.55%|
|3||Neste Corporation||Finland||Petroleum Refineries||80.92%|
|5||GlaxoSmithKline plc||United Kingdom||Biopharmaceuticals||79.41%|
|6||Prologis, Inc.||United States||Real Estate Investment Trusts||79.12%|
|7||Umicore||Belgium||Primary Metals Products||79.05%|
|8||Banco do Brasil S.A.||Brazil||Banks||78.15%|
|9||Shinhan Financial Group Co.||South Korea||Banks||77.75%|
|10||Taiwan Semiconductor||Taiwan||Semiconductor Equipment||77.71%|
Chr. Hansen Holding A/S leapt from #66 in 2018 to the top spot this year. According to CEO Mauricio Graber, the company develops “cultures, enzymes, probiotics and natural colors for a rich variety of foods, confectionery, beverages, dietary supplements and even animal feed.”
A staggering 82% of Chr. Hansen’s revenue contributes to the United Nations’ Sustainability Goals. The company is using good bacteria to reduce antibiotic use, crop pesticides, and food waste. Over the last three years, the company has reduced yogurt waste by 400,000 tonnes.
What’s in it for Companies?
While societal pressure is certainly one motivating factor, Harvard Business Review notes that corporate sustainability has many benefits:
- Drives competitive advantage through stakeholder engagement
- Improves risk management
- Fosters innovation
- Improves financial performance
- Builds customer loyalty
- Attracts and engages employees
It’s clear that sustainability is a strong differentiator in the business community. The world’s largest – and smartest – companies are leading the charge towards a greener, more equitable future.
Visualizing EV Sales Around the World
With global sales hitting new milestones and adoption rates rising, are electric vehicles now becoming a mainstream option for drivers around the world?
It took five years to sell the first million electric cars. In 2018, it took only six months.
The Tesla Model 3 also passed a significant milestone in 2018, becoming the first electric vehicle (EV) to crack the 100,000 sales mark in a single year. The Nissan LEAF and BAIC EC-Series are both likely to surpass the 100,000 this year as well.
Although the electric vehicle market didn’t grow as fast as some experts initially projected, it appears that EV sales are finally hitting their stride around the world. Below are the countries where electric vehicles are a biggest part of the sales mix.
The EV Capital of the World
Norway, after amassing a fortune through oil and gas extraction, made the conscious decision to create incentives for its citizens to purchase electric vehicles. As a result, the country is the undisputed leader in EV adoption.
In 2018, a one-third of all passenger vehicles were fully electric, and that percentage is only expected to increase in the near future. The Norwegian government has even set the ambitious target of requiring all new cars to be zero-emission by 2025.
That enthusiasm for EVs is spilling over to other countries in the region, which are also seeing a high percentage of EV sales. However, the five countries in which EVs are the most popular – Norway, Iceland, Sweden, Netherlands, and Finland – only account for 0.5% of the world’s population. For EV adoption to make any real impact on global emissions, drivers in high-growth/high–population countries will need to opt for electric powered vehicles. (Of course power grids will need to get greener as well, but that’s another topic.)
China’s Supercharged Impact
One large economy that is embracing plug-in vehicles is China.
The country leads the world in electric vehicle sales, with over a million new vehicles hitting the roads in 2018. Last year, more EVs were sold in Shenzhen and Shanghai than any country in the world, with the exception of the United States.
China also leads the world in another important metric – charging stations. Not only does China have the highest volume of chargers, many of them allow drivers to charge up faster.
Accelerating from the Slow Lane
In the United States, electric vehicle sales are rising, but they still tend to be highly concentrated in specific areas. In around half of states, EVs account for fewer than 1% of vehicle sales. On the other hand, California is approaching the 10% mark, a significant milestone for the most populous state.
Nationally, EV sales increased throughout 2018, with December registering nearly double the sales volume of the same month in 2017. Part of this surge in sales is driven by the Tesla’s Model 3, which led the market in the last quarter of 2018.
North of the border, in Canada, the situation is similar. EV sales are increasing, but not fast enough to meet targets set by the government. Canada aimed to have half a million EVs on the road by 2018, but missed that target by around 400,000 vehicles.
The big question now is whether the recent surge in sales is a temporary trend driven by government subsidies and showmanship of Elon Musk, or whether EVs are now becoming a mainstream option for drivers around the world.
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