Recent large-scale clearance of peatland forest inside a PT. Riau Andalan Pulp & Paper (PT RAPP) pulpwood concession on Pulau Padang, Bengkalis Regency, Riau Province. 05/20/2014 © Ulet Ifansasti / Greenpeace

It's hard to imagine there are only 500 actors who control the global trade in deforestation but it's true.

The Forest 500, a new ranking from Global Canopy Programme, assesses publicly available policies from companies, governments and investors and ranks them according to how they are contributing to deforestation. From governments – who in some cases allow deforestation, and in others enforce the rules to prevent it – to companies producing, trading or using the commodities responsible for deforestation, and to the investors who bankroll it all, the Forest 500 gives us a snapshot of how deforestation is being traded globally.

The picture is far from pretty. Of the 400 companies and investors assessed, only 7 scored high enough to go in the top bracket, with dozens at the bottom not scoring any points at all. This is glaring with investors, who as a group appear to be doing very little to end deforestation. Governments fare slightly better, mostly falling somewhere in the middle of the ranking, with none yet doing enough to effectively end deforestation.

What the Forest 500 makes clear is that despite much progress made against deforestation in the past decade, a great deal more is required.

Given the assessment only reviews policies, and not implementation or 'behind the scenes' actions, the list isn't perfect – companies like Royal Golden Eagle, parent company of notorious forest destroyer APRIL, and their bankers like Santander get more credit than they should – our expose on the gap between the policy they were ranked on and the reality of continued rainforest destruction can be found here – while companies like the members of the Palm Oil Innovation Group, New Britain Palm Oil, Ferrero and Arla, for example, probably don't get enough.

This ranking will help bring some transparency to the policies of the 500 individuals, businesses and institutions that will to a large degree determine the future of the world's rainforests. We look forward to the Forest 500 rising to the challenge and eliminating forest destruction.

Want to help protect forests? Tell Santander to stop bankrolling destruction – take action!

Pat Venditti is a Senior Forest Campaigner at Greenpeace International.