A cut-off date is a specific point in time that delineates compliance and non-compliance with a no-deforestation policy, and sets out the date in which deforestation/conversion is no longer acceptable.
Cut-off dates can be set in the past, in the future or in the present time. Each of these options has trade-offs associated with it. For example, a cut-off date set in the past will be very restrictive and ambitious, which may be interesting for some stakeholders, but it can also pose unfair and unrealistic expectations for producers and severely limit the availability of compliant supply. Cut-off dates set in the future can lead to significant unintended consequences, namely incentivizing and accelerating deforestation, as producers scramble to open up as much productive land as possible before the cut-off date comes into effect. Present time cut-off dates (those that come into effect when the agreement/policy is finalized and announced) are typically preferable as they address the unfairness of the past cut-off dates and reduce incentives for immediate clearing that can occur with future dates.
The Accountability Framework advises that, in the event of new no-deforestation commitments issued in 2020 or later, cut-off dates should align with global goals to halt deforestation by 2020, as specified in the New York Declaration on Forests and in Target 15.2 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. A cut-off date no later than January 1, 2020, would bring companies in line with these global norms.