Liviya James

Biodiesel Tax Credit Advances Despite Major Environmental and Climate Concerns

Food-based biofuels fail to address climate crisis and contribute to environmental destruction in the U.S. and around the world

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Despite environmental and climate concerns about the use of food-based biofuels, in particular soy biodiesel, the House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee voted to advance HR 3301, which provides a two year extension for the Biodiesel Tax Credit at a cost of approximately $3 billion annually.

In response, Clean Air Task Force and National Wildlife Federation have joined with Mighty Earth in calling for the tax credit to be scaled down to include only more environmentally friendly biofuels, such as waste-based or cellulosic. In its letter to legislators, the coalition voiced serious concerns about the harmful effects of food-based biodiesels, including water pollution in the Midwest and the destruction of natural prairie and forest ecosystems, which releases roughly the same amount of carbon into the atmosphere as the biodiesel proponents claim that it saves. The letter also quoted a New York Times 2018 exposé that quantified biodiesel’s global impacts, noting that U.S. policy supports for biodiesel from virgin oils can be directly linked to “accelerated destruction of Borneo’s forests and the largest single-year global increase in carbon emissions in two millenniums.” 

“It is disappointing to see this shortsighted policy advance yet again,” said Mighty Earth Campaign Director Rose Garr. “Food-based biofuels are simply not a serious way to respond to the climate crisis, and the longer Congress pretends otherwise the worse shape we’ll be in. The environmental and climate concerns about food-based biofuels are well-established at this point. There is no excuse for continuing to support an environmentally damaging policy that does nothing to fight climate change and, in fact, can make the problem worse.”

The full letter is reprinted below.


June 20, 2019

Dear Representative,

As organizations concerned about climate change, conservation, and food security, we are writing to communicate our concern about the potential reauthorization of the Biodiesel Tax Credit.

Although waste-based biodiesel appears to offer environmental benefits, most of the biodiesel consumed in the United States is made from virgin vegetable oils like soy, canola and palm. By increasing overall demand for vegetable oil, increased biodiesel production puts pressure on agricultural commodity markets and spurs increased agricultural production, which in turn causes the destruction of native habitats and pollutes clean water supplies[1]. Once emissions from related land use change are fully considered, the climate impact of food-based biodiesel is likely on par with or worse than that of fossil fuels[2]. In short, conventional, food-based biodiesel is neither a ‘green’ fuel nor an effective climate change mitigation tool.

A recent New York Times and ProPublica investigation (full article enclosed) into this issue revealed the links between U.S. policy supports for biodiesel and land conversion and climate emissions around the world, especially in southeast Asia. Due to food and land displacement issues, which provided large new markets for palm oil, U.S. policy supports for biodiesel from virgin oils can be directly linked to “accelerated destruction of Borneo’s forests” and “the largest single-year global increase in carbon emissions in two millenniums, an explosion that transformed Indonesia into the world’s fourth-largest source of such emissions.”

As you consider whether and how to offer tax credit support to various technologies through the energy extenders package, we urge you to refrain from subsidizing food-based biodiesel. A better path may be to narrow the scope of the credit to support only truly advanced biodiesels made from ultra-low carbon and waste-based feedstocks, like those that are given preference by the Low Carbon Fuel Standard programs in California and Oregon. We encourage you to limit your support to the type of biofuels that have the potential to improve our environment and climate.

We hope that we will have the opportunity to further discuss this issue with you and your staff.


Rose Garr
Mighty Earth

Jonathan Lewis
Clean Air Task Force

David DeGennaro
National Wildlife Federation


[1] Searle, S. “How Rapeseed and Soy Biodiesel Drive Oil Palm Expansion.” The International Council on Clean Transportation. Briefing. July 2017; US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Biofuels and the Environment: The Second Triennial Report to Congress (2018 Final Report) (hereinafter “Second Triennial”), at 97 (

[2] Hugo Valin, et al. 2015. The Land Use Change Impact of Biofuels Consumed in the EU: Quantification of Area and Greenhouse Gas Impacts, at 39 (Fig. 15).

Meet "Chocopec" - Can a new minimum price give cocoa farmers a living income?

Mighty Earth welcomes efforts to raise incomes for cocoa smallholders, but calls for a higher bar, measures to protect farmers, and inclusion of farmers in negotiations

Last week, Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana banded together and announced they would set a minimum price for cocoa in a bid to finally give cocoa farmers a living income. The two West African countries, which supply around 65 percent of the world’s cocoa, declared they would set a floor price of $2,600 per metric tonne of cocoa beans.

If implemented correctly, a minimum price could protect farmers from dire poverty and fluctuations in the cocoa market, like when the price of cocoa abruptly fell by 30 percent three years ago, leaving many farmers struggling desperately.

Mighty Earth calls on each and every cocoa trader and chocolate manufacturer to stand up and be counted at this critical juncture, and commit to paying a just price for cocoa, one that guarantees cocoa farmers a living income and a life of dignity. We also call on certification bodies like the Rainforest Alliance to put in place matching minimum pricing, and address the living income problem as explained in this position paper by the Voice network, of which Mighty Earth is a member.

Mighty Earth stands firmly for a living income, and like the ICCO we hope the minimum price will be set higher than $2,600. We decry the fact that cocoa farmers typically earn less than $1 per day as an injustice. To quote Bryan Stevenson: “the opposite of poverty is not wealth. The opposite of poverty is justice.”

Timing will be key. Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana finally got tough with the $100 billion industry on June 11-12, declaring that they are suspending forward sales of cocoa beans for 2020-1 until their floor price of US$2,600 is met. A technical committee meeting will be held in Abidjan on July 3 to work out the modalities. The clock is now ticking for chocolate companies to make their pledges before July 3 and commit to paying a minimum price.

Currently, cocoa farmers’ income is low compared to the profit made by the chocolate industry:

Cocoa cultivation has been synonymous with extreme poverty, is widely associated with child labor, trafficking, and slavery, and has resulted in significant destruction of ancient rainforests, including illegal deforestation inside national parks. A Fairtrade study in April 2018 showed that 58 percent of Fairtrade certified cocoa farming households in Côte d’Ivoire had incomes below the extreme poverty line. Economic hardship is a major reason why roughly 2.1 million children work in cocoa, 96 percent of whom are thought to be in hazardous labor, according to a 2015 study by researchers at Tulane University. A new study published this month by researchers at University of Arkansas and Kansas State University calculated that Ghana could keep children out of cocoa by increasing the price farmers receive by about 50 percent, but that paying even just 3 percent more could potentially stop children from engaging in the most hazardous tasks, like using machetes.

Mighty Earth is not alone in wanting to see a floor price. Fairtrade also welcomed the decision by Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana. “We believe in sharing the benefits of trade more equally, and welcome this move by the governments to shore up cocoa farmers’ incomes” said Jon Walker, Fairtrade International’s Senior Advisor for Cocoa. In October 2019, Fairtrade International announced its minimum price for cocoa would increase by 20 percent to $2,400 per metric tonne. The ICCO director Michel Arrion welcomed the development though he expressed surprise that the floor was too low, since a floor price of US$2,600 is not enough to achieve a living income.

Mighty Earth appreciates the World Cocoa Foundation current position that member companies are encouraged to see an increased share of the global cocoa price transferred to farmers in the government-regulated farmgate price – and Mighty calls on the WCF and its member companies to now agree to pay a fair price for cocoa.

Ultimately though, the devil is in the details. When implementation of a floor price is mapped out, farmers must be the ultimate beneficiaries – not middlemen or the authorities. Farmers need not only a floor price, but also increased public sector investment in transportation, logistics, and trade-related infrastructure, development help for farming communities, better access to education and health, and transparency in government services. Most of all, farmers must be consulted fairly, transparently, and respectfully. Mighty Earth shares the World Cocoa Farmers Organization’s concern that cocoa farmers, whose lives are at stake, were not duly involved during deliberations leading up to the Ivorian and Ghanaian decision about a floor price. Mighty Earth also calls on governmental authorities and aid agencies to ensure that the suspension of cocoa sales does not negatively impact lives of millions of cocoa farmers, pending the industry agreeing to producer country demands. No one wants farmers and their families to go hungry, or for the industry to be able to use farmers’ misery as a hostage, in negotiations around a floor price.

Going forward it will also be key to ensure that increased prices don’t incentivize further conversion of forest land for cocoa production by Ivorian and Ghanaian smallholder farmers. Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana have already lost over 90 percent of their forests, and in 2018 had the two most severe increases in rates deforestation worldwide. What little forests remain must be vigilantly protected for future generations.


Ghanian NGOs: 

Cameroonian NGOs:


International NGOs

L’un des principaux importateurs de soja en France renonce à lutter contre la déforestation importée

19 juin 2019 – Alors que Cargill, l’un des principaux importateurs de soja en France, vient de publier son nouveau plan d’action soja, force est de constater que le compte n’y est pas. Les entreprises françaises qui utilisent du soja commercialisé par Cargill dans leur chaîne d’approvisionnement devront en tirer les conséquences.

Le 25 mars dernier, Mighty Earth, France Nature Environnement et Sherpa publiaient un rapport sur le devoir de vigilance des entreprises françaises face à la déforestation causée par la culture du soja en Amérique du Sud, comme Bigard, le Groupe Bertrand/Quick, et E. Leclerc, parmi d’autres. Ce rapport relevait l’absence de prise en compte de ce risque par l’immense majorité des entreprises du secteur agro-alimentaire interpellées, alors même que le soja est utilisé massivement en France dans l’alimentation du bétail, notamment le porc et les volailles.

Les entreprises françaises peuvent-elles encore se fournir auprès de Cargill ? 

Cargill, l’un des principaux importateurs de soja en France, a publié la semaine dernière son nouveau plan d’action soja (en anglais). Pour Glenn Hurowitz, directeur de Mighty Earth  :

« Cargill bricole des solutions médiocres alors que l'Amérique du Sud est en train d’être réduite en cendres. Si l’on regarde de plus près ce plan d’action, il apparait que le seul véritable engagement pris par l’entreprise est de respecter la loi, comme si elle pouvait choisir ne pas la respecter... Tant que Cargill ne cessera pas de s’approvisionner auprès de fournisseurs impliqués dans la destruction d’écosystèmes, les autres compagnies devraient réfléchir mûrement avant de se fournir auprès de Cargill. »

Ce plan d’action est également un échec pour le PDG de Cargill, David MacLennan, qui s'était engagé à plusieurs reprises à mettre fin à la déforestation, et qui a aujourd’hui échoué à mettre en œuvre ses engagements.

Si nos organisations accueillent favorablement la volonté affichée par Cargill d’investir dans la préservation des forêts, l’expérience montre que les résultats de tels investissements, réalisés en l'absence de politiques strictes de conservation, ne sont pas à la hauteur de la crise actuelle. Ils ne sauraient remplacer de véritables mesures de prévention des atteintes à l’environnement et aux droits humains, et une mise en œuvre effective de ces mesures.

Les entreprises françaises doivent s’engager à lutter contre la déforestation importée

Au regard de la faiblesse de ce plan d’action, nos organisations appellent les entreprises françaises concernées à cesser l’approvisionnement direct ou indirect en matières premières agricoles dont l’origine ne peut être garantie libre de violations des droits humains ou abus environnementaux. Ces dernières doivent à tout prix investir dans la traçabilité sur 100% des volumes de soja utilisés dans leur chaîne d’approvisionnement et s’engager immédiatement et concrètement pour un moratoire couvrant toutes les forêts d’Amérique latine.

Pour aller plus loin :

Devoir de vigilance et déforestation – Le cas oublié du soja, mars 2019
Quand la déforestation s’invite à notre table – La catastrophe environnementale et humaine qui se cache derrière la viande et les produits laitiers français, mars 2018

Mighty Earth to Help Set Environmental, Climate Standards for Steel

Environmental organization joins ResponsibleSteel, which will set standards and certification plans for industry by 2020

LONDON – Today, Mighty Earth officially became a member of ResponsibleSteel, a global, multi-stakeholder, not-for-profit standard and certification initiative for the responsible sourcing and production of steel.

Mighty Earth joins ResponsibleSteel to help address the outsized climate impact of steel and, ultimately, the entire heavy industrial sector. Mighty Earth is the first U.S.-based organization to join the initiative.

“Mighty Earth is excited to join this unprecedented and urgent effort to reduce climate pollution from the world's leading source of industrial emissions: steel,” said Mighty Earth CEO Glenn Hurowitz. “NGOs and industry must work together to cut industrial carbon emissions in half by 2030, and our hope is that ResponsibleSteel will be the vehicle for the steel industry to do its part to solve the climate crisis.”

Steel is the leading source of industrial emissions, accounting for 8 percent of all global emissions. It’s representative of the heavy industrial sector, long perceived as the most difficult to abate sector. All told, industrial sectors account for 38 percent of global energy use, a quarter of global emissions, and 30 percent of all U.S. carbon emissions. The scale of energy use means that mitigating the climate impact of industry is as important as addressing deforestation or transportation.

Mighty Earth is one of the only NGOs focused on the heavy industrial sector and steel, but progress has been made. A few weeks ago, Skanska UK committed to carbon neutrality for the full scope of its supply chain – exactly what Mighty Earth had asked for at the outset of the campaign. More recently, ArcelorMittal, the largest steel company in the world, committed to carbon neutrality in Europe and released the steel industry’s first-ever climate action plan. And just this month, the American Institute of Architects overwhelmingly approved a resolution calling for “urgent and sustained climate action.”

ResponsibleSteel’s certification mechanism will cover the production of steel as well as the sourcing of raw materials. The ResponsibleSteel standard, currently under development, addresses: Business Integrity; Stakeholder Communication and Engagement; Responsible Sourcing; Climate Change and Greenhouse Gas Emissions; Emissions, Effluent, Waste; Water Stewardship; Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services; Human Rights; Local Communities; Labour Rights; Occupational Health and Safety.

Other members of the organization include steel businesses like ArcelorMittal, BlueScope Steel, voestalpine, Aperam, BMW, Daimler and HSBC, as well as civil society organizations IndustriALL, IUCN, Fauna and Flora International, CDP and the We Mean Business Coalition.

For more on Mighty Earth’s campaign to decarbonize heavy industry, please visit

Additional Resources:

New Soy Action Plan Shows Cargill is Fiddling While South America Burns

In response to Cargill’s announcement of a new Soy Action Plan, Mighty Earth CEO Glenn Hurowitz released the following statement:

“Cargill is fiddling while South America burns. When you drill down, the only commitment they have made is to obey the law, which we would hope they would do anyway. Cargill’s new policy is such a nothingburger that even their largest customer, McDonald’s, wouldn’t dare serve it.

“The amount Cargill has pledged toward forest protection is but a tiny fraction of the amount they spend funding forest destruction through their purchases and financing. Until Cargill stops purchasing from suppliers engaged in destruction of native ecosystems or human rights abuses, it’s hard to see how change will happen. The Soy Action Plan released today is a total failure of leadership from Cargill CEO David MacLennan, who has repeatedly committed to end deforestation, basked in positive attention for his commitments, but then utterly failed to take actions that would actually stop deforestation.

“Many people inside Cargill are just as disappointed and frustrated as we are that Cargill continues to drive massive deforestation when there are 1.6 billion acres of degraded land where agriculture could be expanded sustainably.

“Cargill’s dithering means that their customers are selling meat linked to totally avoidable deforestation. The question now is whether Cargill customers like Ahold Delhaize and McDonald’s will take any action to shift business from Cargill or allow the company to continue to tie them and their customers to deforestation and displacement of indigenous communities.

“While we welcome Cargill's stated willingness to invest money in incentivizing forest conservation, they seem to have no idea how the money would be spent or how it would get the job done. Unfortunately, the track record of such investments in the absence of strict conservation policies is poor, and they are no substitute for a real policy and real commitment.”


Alex Armstrong

[email protected]

Rapid Response Palm Oil

Palm Oil

Mighty Earth’s Rapid Response monitoring system currently monitors more than 3500 oil palm concessions in Indonesia and Malaysia, covering about 21 million hectares, an area more than twice the size of Portugal. Trader performance on grievance handling is presented below.

Performance as of October 18, 2019; click on company logo for more details on grievances.

Links to traders’ grievance logs and information here.


Nothing found.

Soy and Cattle: Report 1

Rapid Response Monitoring System

Soy and Cattle, Report 1 | June 2019 

Based on March 2019 alert

Prepared with

VIew as PDF

Largest Steelmaker in the World Sets Carbon Neutrality Goal for Europe

Mighty Earth encouraged by steel industry’s first-ever climate action plan

The largest steelmaker in the world, ArcelorMittal, which is responsible for approximately 0.7 percent of all global carbon emissions, has set a goal of achieving carbon-neutral operations in Europe by 2050.

Given the scope of ArcelorMittal’s operations in Europe, where it is headquartered and maintains a significant operational footprint, this commitment is the most significant in the steel industry to date. This goal, which was first revealed in the company's recently issued Climate Action Report 1, also puts the company closer in line with its European competitors like ThyssenKrupp and SSAB, which have set their own carbon-neutral and fossil-free commitments, respectively.

In 2018, Mighty Earth launched a campaign asking the steel industry to commit to carbon neutrality. This commitment from the world's largest and most influential steelmaker is a sign of progress. However, ArcelorMittal has large and growing operations around the world but has not yet made a carbon neutral commitment for their global operations.

Mighty Earth Campaign Director Margaret Hansbrough offered her analysis after reviewing the plan:

"This commitment by ArcelorMittal demonstrates some meaningful leadership in the industry and is a big step. We particularly appreciate how vocal the company's CEO, Lakshmi Mittal, has been in the release of this climate action plan and on the need for heavy industrial companies like his to play a role in solving our climate crisis. We need every steel industry executive in the world to follow his lead and engage in a meaningful and constructive way.

“However, we have serious questions and concerns about the role of charcoal or ‘circular carbon’ as the report refers to, as a key element in achieving carbon neutrality in Europe.

“The report refers to ‘forestry residues’ to create charcoal for steelmaking. But we know from experience that very little bioenergy is truly sustainable. Over-reliance on wood as a source of energy can create large new pressures on forests, incentivizing deforestation. ArcelorMittal needs to ensure that any charcoal they are currently using or will use in the future is not driving deforestation anywhere in the world. We need to be reforesting our planet as fast as possible to remove carbon. Without extreme vigilance, the use of charcoal could lead to increased deforestation and worsen our climate catastrophe.

“We also have significant concerns about pollution from charcoal. We are taking a close look at this plan and will continue to engage with the company and the industry to push for the most aggressive and achievable emissions reductions possible to stay within a 1.5-degree scenario. In order to do that, global industrial emissions must be cut in half by 2030. We need to see 2025 and 2030 emission reduction goals from ArcelorMittal and other top global producers as soon as possible. Additional commitments for 100 percent clean electricity sourcing and offsetting current steel emissions through forest conservation and restoration are needed to move the industry in the right direction.

“And while a carbon neutral commitment for Europe is a big step in the right direction, no company or country can rely on any strategy that outsources emissions to another part of the planet. If emissions go down in Europe but grow in India, then no progress has been made. All emissions are global.

“Overall, we are supportive of much of the content in the company's climate report, including its investments in hydrogen technology, support for abundant clean energy sources and infrastructure, access to low-emissions finance tools, and border trade adjustments. And we are in full agreement that there need to be ways of leveling the global carbon playing field to ensure we are not outsourcing emissions.

“Mighty Earth is encouraged by these recent developments, but we remain watchful. We are optimistic about plans for a global certification body, ResponsibleSteel, and plan to engage with the group and all the stakeholders involved. ArcelorMittal's leadership with this group shows they are a leader in the industry, and we look forward to working with them to pave the way for a 100 percent carbon-neutral steel industry."

Meat Company Pollution to Blame for New, Near-Record “Dead Zone” Forecast

On the heels of the official NOAA forecast that predicts a near-record size “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico this summer, environmental campaign organization Mighty Earth is laying the blame at the feet of America’s biggest meat companies.

“In 2018, JBS was responsible for generating 80 million tons of raw sewage – and that’s just what we know about. Dumping that much manure and slaughterhouse waste into our waters is clearly a major threat to our health and downstream prosperity, but the new forecast shows just how disastrous and out of hand the industry’s pollution has become,” said Mighty Earth Campaign Director Lucia von Reusner. “The environmental catastrophe is rivalled only by the economic damage this will do to the Gulf economies later this year.”

A recent Mighty Earth analysis showed that America’s largest meat companies have built slaughterhouses and processing facilities in flood-prone areas throughout the Mississippi River Basin while failing to develop and implement practices to protect water quality. As a result, 145 million tons of untreated animal waste and other pollutants washed freely off industrial farms into the Mississippi River watershed in 2018, endangering local water quality and ultimately contributing to the toxic algal blooms fueling the annual Gulf dead zone.

Agricultural giant JBS, responsible for 80 million tons of pollution in 2018, was the top polluter identified in the analysis, while Cargill and Tyson were the most vulnerable to flooding. Polluted runoff from fields producing the vast quantities of animal feed used by these companies is another major source of water contamination causing the dead zone.

“Given the climate-fueled extreme flooding washing more and more pollution downstream, it would not be surprising if this is ultimately the largest-ever dead zone,” von Reusner said.

NOAA’s official forecast predicts a hypoxic zone of 7,829 square miles. However, researchers at Louisiana State University who contributed to NOAA’s model predict – with a 95 percent confidence interval – an area between 7,889 and 9,583 square miles. The largest ever recorded to date was in 2017, with a dead zone of 8,776 square miles.

“JBS and the other meat companies have gotten away with their reckless practices for so long because the chain of cause and effect is as long as the Mississippi River,” said von Reusner. “But the connection between uncontrolled runoff from industrial farms and the dead zone is clear – and the results are disastrous. It’s time for industrial meat companies to be held accountable for the unacceptable levels of pollution flushed downstream year after year: they must immediately move to implement protections for America’s water.”

Palm Oil: Report 16

Rapid Response Monitoring System

Palm Oil, Report 16 | June 2019 

Prepared with support from MapHubs

VIew as PDF

Additional Cases Identified Using Filtered GLAD Alerts: Best Group: PT WanasawitSuburLestari, Unknown Group: PT GapuraAlas Lestari, Leowfamily: PT GunungAgung Perkasa, Unknown Group: PT LaotBangko

Sources for supply chain information:

Supply chain information included in Rapid Response reports is based on latest publicly versions of mill disclosures and grievance logs. Mighty Earth encourages companies to send updated versions of mill disclosures as soon as they become available and any decision to suspend supplies with a given group/company listed in those mill disclosures; please send to [email protected].

Five reasons why your company should be using sustainable natural rubber

Five reasons why your company should be using sustainable natural rubber

For companies that are committed to sustainability, moving toward using ethical rubber is the next big – and essential – step to making your products better for the planet. Conventional rubber harvesting causes environmental devastation on a massive scale. But the good news is: the rubber you use doesn’t have to.

Here are three reasons why industrial rubber harvesting can be harmful – and two reasons why this is the right moment for your company to shift to sustainable natural rubber:

Rubber Production Causes Deforestation

Deforestation for rubber is a problem across Africa and southeast Asia, and it’s accelerating. These areas are biodiversity hotspots, and the habitats of numerous endangered species, including tigers, gibbons, and elephants, are rapidly disappearing.

Rubber Production Can Destroy Communities

The rubber industry is destroying more than just our forests. Exploitative harvesting is wrecking communities in Southeast Asia and Africa, throwing families off the land where they’ve lived for generations and taking away their livelihoods, all to make way for more rubber farms.

Rubber Production Worsens Climate Change

The immediate harm caused by the rubber industry is serious – but the biggest impacts might not be felt for years to come, because deforestation is a major factor in climate change. At a moment when drastic measures are needed within the next decade to prevent the worst effects of climate change, many companies are stepping up to make a difference, but rubber is an often-overlooked part of the problem. It’s critical that we commit to ending the deforestation caused by rubber harvesting.

Consumers Want Sustainability

Sustainable natural rubber will do more than just allow your company to be part of protecting our planet and communities. As companies seek to distinguish themselves in increasingly competitive markets, surveys show that 66 percent of the general public and 73 percent of millennials will spend more if the product is produced sustainably. This means that being sustainable doesn’t have to come with harm to your bottom line; in fact, it can help your brand.

There is Still Time to Get Ahead of the Game

Fortunately, companies around the world are recognizing the benefits of and are beginning to commit to sustainable and ethical rubber. Just last year, six tire companies adopted “No Deforestation, No Exploitation” policies for their rubber supply chains (bringing the total number across the industry to eight) and many other brands, from condom companies to wetsuit manufacturers, committed to fair and sustainable rubber as well. Additionally, this March, The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) launched the Global Platform for Sustainable Natural Rubber, a promising platform that has the opportunity to bring the whole industry towards sustainability.

Your company can start on this journey right now and be part of the global movement to protect forests, our climate, and human rights.

Want to join stakeholders across the natural rubber value chain for an open and honest discussion about the challenges and opportunities in the world of sustainable natural rubber- and learn how your company can commit to sustainability? Join us for a workshop on Sustainable Natural Rubber – Pathways, Policies and Partnerships, where you’ll have an opportunity to make connections and explore solutions to making rubber more sustainable. Companies at all stages of their sustainability journey are welcome!

Activists Tell Congress: Stop Supporting Dirty Biofuels

Last week, more than 80 concerned citizens gathered in Atlanta to join Mighty Earth, Dogwood Alliance, and more than 20 co-hosting organizations to mobilize against dirty bioenergy. The event, Forests + Food ≠ Fuel, featured a screening of the documentary Burned, an audience discussion on the environmental impact of burning food-based biofuels, and a call-to-action for Congress to oppose dirty biofuels.

Bioenergy is an emerging industry responsible for clearing old-growth forests at an alarming rate across the globe, releasing high levels of greenhouse gas into the atmosphere, to create liquified fuel. Recent lifecycle analyses of biofuels have demonstrated the dangers their manufacturing pose to a healthy environment. Biofuels require heavy application of nitrogen fertilizer – a significant climate polluter – and contribute to the loss of native ecosystems through land conversion. Subsidies for biofuels encourage this destruction by increasing demand for arable farmland and driving rapid deforestation.

The Ways & Means Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives is currently considering legislation to renew an expiring biofuels tax credit. As Ranking Member of the committee and Congressman to Georgia’s 5th district, Representative John Lewis has the capacity to steer the country away from dirty biofuels. At the event, attendees were encouraged to reach out to Congressman Lewis and other members of the Ways & Means Committee to oppose this legislation.

For the past three years, Mighty Earth has championed pro-environment reforms to the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), which mandates increasing biofuel consumption through 2022.


Analysis: Spring Floods Exacerbate Pollution from Factory Farms Washing into Gulf of Mexico

Analysis: Spring Floods Exacerbate Pollution from Factory Farms Washing into Gulf of Mexico

Following the unprecedented climate-fueled flooding sweeping the Midwest this spring, Mighty Earth wanted to calculate approximately how much pollution is washing off America’s largest industrial factory farms into American waterways. Industrial meat production is the largest source of water pollution in the United States, yet this industry and its impacts are often left out of discussions around climate change. With the climate crises worsening and the Trump administration working to further roll back environmental regulations on industry, it is critical that the American public understand the sources and vast amounts of pollution washing into our waterways in order to hold specific companies and policymakers responsible for curbing uncontrolled industrial runoff.

The map below shows the locations of company facilities and the average per facility water pollutant data reported to EPA’s TRI database within the most recent 5-year period from 2012-2017. To view each company separately, click the cog icon in the legend to turn on specific company data layers. When clicking on a facility location, scroll down the pop up box to see the pollution calculations.

View the larger map

To assess how much pollution is being generated annually by the facilities of America’s largest meat companies, Mighty Earth analyzed water pollutant data reported by companies to the EPA’s Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) database and annual slaughter data reported in company or industry reports to evaluate total manure waste generated by each company. We mapped this data onto NOAA’s 2019 spring flooding outlook to identify which facilities were located in flood prone areas, and how much pollution those facilities were discharging onto the surrounding landscape. Full methodology and findings are below. We found that:

  • JBS came in as the top polluter, generating approximately 80 million tons of sewage.
  • In total, the top meat companies discharged nearly 220 million tons of manure and facility waste using practices that directly threaten nearby waterways with contamination, by either discharging pollutants directly into waterways, spreading pollutants onto the surrounding landscape, or storing pollutants in earthen impoundments that are highly prone to flooding and overflowing. This is approximately 500 times more sewage waste than is generated by New York City each year, yet unlike human waste, this waste from the meat industry is left untreated when it washes into waterways.
  • Facilities located in the Mississippi Watershed- which flows into the Gulf of Mexico- discharged an estimated 16 million lbs of sewage directly from facilities and 128 million tons of manure from supplying livestock and poultry production facilities.
  • Cargill had the most facilities concentrated in regions classified as by NOAA as ‘high risk’ for flooding in the spring of 2019, while Tyson had the highest exposure overall to flood risk areas.

The facilities of these corporate factory farms produce more sewage waste than some major U.S. cities, and this waste contains a variety of toxins and pathogens dangerous to human health including manure, nitrates, hydrogen sulfide, lead, E. coli, antibiotic resistant bacteria, growth hormones, and more.  Unlike human waste however, sewage from factory farms is not required to be treated before it is released into the surrounding environment. Common methods of disposing of sewage from factory farms are to spread the waste on surrounding crop fields, store it in massive open earthen pits prone to overflow or leaking, or discharge it directly into nearby waterways. Precipitation events like rain or snow then wash this waste downstream, contaminating drinking water across the Midwest with harmful toxins and creating dead zones fueled by toxic algae blooms in major watersheds like the Gulf of Mexico each summer.

While uncontrolled pollution from the meat industry has been a long-standing threat to our waterways, catastrophic floods exacerbated by climate change and the destruction of natural landscape buffers are increasingly turning America’s agricultural regions into open sewers filled in part by the meat industry’s waste. Last fall, Hurricane Florence devastated North Carolina as manure lagoons filled with hog waste overflowed across the landscape. This spring, unprecedented flooding swept the Midwest- the heart of the meat industry’s supply chain. As a result, NOAA has already issued predictions that the annual dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico, caused largely by the meat industry’s run-off pollution washing down the Mississippi River, is going to be larger than the annual average. The bulk of the meat industry’s pollution comes from the vast quantities of feed required to raise livestock and poultry, which was the focus of Mighty Earth’s Mystery Meat II report.

Costco's poultry plant in Fremont, Ohio impacted by flooding

The meat industry is highly consolidated, with a small handful of companies controlling between 60-90% of poultry, pork, and beef markets. These companies are responsible for the bulk of the industry’s impacts, yet can drive massive improvements at scale by changing farming practices in their supply chains. Recognizing that climate change is worsening while demand for meat is rising, Mighty Earth is leading a global campaign calling on the world’s largest food companies to require more sustainable farming practices that reduce the environmental devastation from industrial meat production.  You can see more about our work here.

Full Methodology

To calculate the amount of pollution generated by the facilities of America’s largest meat companies, we used company reported water pollutant data to the EPA’s Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) database and annual slaughter data reported in company or industry reports to evaluate total manure waste. This calculation does not include the runoff from producing the vast quantities of corn and soy feed used to raise livestock and poultry. The companies were chosen as those representing 2/3 or more of the poultry, pork, and beef markets. Given irregularly reported company data to the EPA’s TRI, the calculations represent the average per facility data reported to EPA’s TRI database within the most recent 5-year period from 2012-2017, while manure calculations rely on most recent 2018 livestock and poultry processing figures from company or industry reports, and NRCS estimated animal waste characteristics. The facilities were overlaid with the 2019 NOAA flood risk map identifying regions with a >50% likelihood of minor, moderate, and severe flooding. Facility locations were identified using a combination of EPA TRI release data using NAICS codes for food and agricultural manufacturing, USDA data, and company websites.

Former Congressman Waxman: New GAO Report Shows Biofuels “Not a Serious Solution to Climate Change”

A new report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office has found that the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) has failed to meet its economic or environmental goals. In response, former Congressman Henry Waxman, now chairman of Mighty Earth, released the following statement:

“The new GAO report, which found that the Renewable Fuel Standard has had a ‘limited effect, if any, on greenhouse gas emissions,’ confirms what research and experience have already shown: biofuels are not a serious solution to climate change. Real climate champions should look to better solutions — clean energy, protecting forests and oceans, and more — instead of any further giveaways to big agribusiness.”

Representative Henry A. Waxman is the Chairman of Mighty Earth, where he continues his decades-long leadership for environmental protection. Previously, Henry spent 40 years serving in the House of Representatives. He served as Chairman and Ranking Member of the Energy & Commerce Committee and Committee on Oversight & Government Reform.

Major Rogue Player in Southeast Asia’s Palm Oil Industry Announces Zero Deforestation Policy

Move follows years of public campaigning by NGOs and market suspensions

BLD Plantation Bhd, a major palm oil producer and refiner operating in Sarawak, Malaysia, has announced a Sustainability Policy committing to “No Deforestation, No Development on Peat, and No Exploitation” (NDPE). The policy covers the company’s own operations and those of its third-party suppliers. BLD has been identified as one of the worst deforesters in the Southeast Asian palm oil industry by both Mighty Earth’s Rapid Response Monitoring System findings and Chain Reaction Research’s analysis.

“BLD might not be a household name, but for years its palm oil has ended up in snacks, soaps, and gas tanks around the world,” said Mighty Earth Senior Campaign Director Deborah Lapidus. “We commend BLD for taking this step and believe it is a sign of the transformation underway in the palm oil industry toward greater responsibility. However, Mighty Earth and other NGOs as well as BLD’s own customers have been urging BLD to end its peatland destruction since at least 2015 and have repeatedly found it clearing until as recently as December 2018.  At this point, BLD has cleared almost all of its plantation. In order for BLD’s policy to have teeth, the company must agree to develop a credible plan to restore the peatlands it has destroyed, and resolve its numerous conflicts over land rights with local indigenous communities.”

This announcement is preceded by years of public campaigning against BLD by Mighty Earth, as well as other international and local NGOs. BLD has been responsible for destroying over 17,500 hectares of deep carbon-rich peatlands (12,000 hectares in just the last five years alone), and encroaching onto the customary lands of indigenous communities, on its palm oil plantation north of Sibu, Sarawak.

Peatland destruction leads to massive climate emissions and has worsened Southeast Asia's haze crisis, which was so severe in 2015 that it led to the premature deaths of more than 100,000 people in the region.

BLD has been suspended by several major global palm oil buyers for violating their NDPE commitments, including traders such as AAK, Bunge Loders Croklaan, IOI, Louis Dreyfus, and Wilmar.

On May 14, Mighty Earth filed a “Policy for Association” complaint with the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), challenging the forest sustainability certification of the logging and palm oil conglomerate KTS Group, the parent company of  BLD, due to its violations of the FSC’s prohibitions on deforestation and human rights abuses. The FSC is expected to decide whether it will process the complaint in the near future.

BLD is one of the largest refiners still providing a market for irresponsible palm oil growers across Sarawak, a region that is rampant with deforestation driven by tycoon-owned logging and palm oil conglomerates.

“As a first step in implementation, BLD must immediately publish the list of palm oil mills and plantations it sources from and take action to remove or reform any suppliers violating its new policy.  If this new NDPE commitment is done correctly, BLD has a chance to play a big role in transforming the palm oil market in Sarawak,” said Lapidus.

Time for the European Union to act to address deforestation and child labour in the cocoa sector

A letter to Vice-President Jyrki Tapani Katainen:

Following the release of highly concerning data from the Global Forest Watch, we—the undersigned organisations working in the fields of environment, human rights, and agriculture—urge you to take action to address deforestation and child labour in the cocoa sector. As the world’s largest importer of cocoa, the European Union has the duty to act.  Your forthcoming “Communication on Stepping up EU Action on Deforestation & Forest Degradation” must include steps to regulate commodities driving deforestation, with cocoa presenting a particularly urgent case.

The recently released Global Forest Watch satellite data reveal that 2018 had the fourth highest rate of forest loss since records began in 2001 - 3.6 million hectares of primary forest disappeared, an area the size of Belgium.

Forest loss shot up the most dramatically in two West African countries: Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire. In Ghana, deforestation increased by 60% in 2018, and in Côte d’Ivoire by 26%. Ghana had the highest increase in deforestation in the world last year, with Cote d’Ivoire coming in second.

These two countries have something else in common: they are the world’s two main producers of cocoa, together responsible for around 60% of global supply. 60% of this cocoa is exported to the EU.

Cocoa is known to be a leading cause of deforestation in Ghana & Côte d’Ivoire. Much of this deforestation is also illegal: according to satellite maps, about 30% of Ivorian cocoa is grown in illegally cleared national parks and protected areas. A large quantity of Ghanaian cocoa is similarly tainted by illegality.

Cocoa production is also plagued with child labour, the sector being one of the only ones where child labour is still getting worse. As of 2018, there are nearly 2 million children working in the cocoa sector in West Africa—and this number is still increasing.

So far, efforts to address deforestation and child labour in the cocoa sector have mostly focused around voluntary commitments by the chocolate industry.  But these have been insufficient in addressing the issues: despite nearly two decades of voluntary industry efforts to end child labour in the sector, the NGO-led Cocoa Barometer concluded in 2018 that child labour was still “widespread” throughout the industry – with “not a single company or government… anywhere near reaching the sector-wide objective of the elimination of child labour, and not even near their commitments of a 70% reduction of child labour by 2020.”

Most of this cocoa is headed to the EU. The EU is the world’s largest importer, processor and consumer of cocoa, responsible for about 60% of global cocoa bean imports. The Netherlands, Germany & Belgium bear a particularly heavy responsibility for this crisis, importing almost half of the global trade in cocoa.

This situation and the EU’s failure to act over the past two decades, despite its huge responsibility, is unacceptable.

There is a widely shared recognition within the cocoa sector that cocoa supply chains need to be regulated in consumer countries, in order to tackle these severe human rights and environmental issues that have plagued the cocoa sector for decades.

The industry-led 2018 World Cocoa Conference final declaration concluded that “voluntary compliance has not led to sufficient impact”, and that there is a need to “strengthen human rights due diligence across the supply chain, including through potential regulatory measures by governments”.

Some of the biggest companies in the cocoa supply chain—most recently Mondelez, Mars & Barry Callebaut— have also publicly called on the EU to regulate its cocoa supply chains to tackle deforestation and human rights abuses.

Policy makers agree. In 2012, Members of the Parliament passed a resolution calling on the European Commission to take regulatory action to end child labour in cocoa production -- with no result. France, Germany, and Belgium have all recently passed policies calling for EU regulation for cocoa imports.

The time to talk has passed. The time to act is now.

We ask you to:

  • Ensure that the forthcoming “Communication on Stepping up EU Action on Deforestation and Forest Degradation” includes measures to regulate EU agricultural commodity imports – including cocoa -- to ensure they are free from deforestation and human rights abuses.
  • Urgently call a high-level meeting with the governments of Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, to discuss the recent Global Forest Watch data and come up with a plan, including time-bound steps, to address the issue, in a partnership of primary producing and primary consuming countries.


Han de Groot - Chief Executive Officer, Rainforest Alliance

Heske Verburg - Managing Director, Solidaridad Europe

Obed Owusu-Addai - Managing Campaigner, EcoCare Ghana

Sergi Corbalán - Executive Director, Fair Trade Advocacy Office

Hannah Mowat - Campaigns Coordinator, Fern

Antonie Fountain - Managing Director, VOICE Network

Jean-Claude Natoueu Koya - Executive President, ROSCIDET Cote d’Ivoire

Etelle Higonnet, Senior Campaign Director, Mighty Earth

Martina Schaub - Executive Director, Südwind Institute

Tina Lutz - Tropical Forest Campaigner, Robin Wood

Reinhard Behrend - Chairman, Retten den Regenwald

Arndt von Massenbach - Executive Director, INKOTA

Resistance to Destructive Palm Oil Grows in South Korea

South Korean firms exposed for driving large scale deforestation and human rights abuse in Indonesia

A recent report has exposed the harmful practices of major Korean conglomerates linked to the palm oil industry in Indonesia, leading to public outcry and consequences for some of the companies involved. The report, originally released in Korean and translated into English, is titled Does Spring Come to Stolen Forests, and documents both human rights abuses and environmental destruction: Indonesian workers on South Korean-owned palm oil plantations have routinely been exiled from their land, exposed to hazardous chemicals and pesticides, and forced to work in poor conditions with unstable wages. The South Korean companies are also responsible for cutting down millions of hectares of rainforests, releasing significant amounts of greenhouse gases, and destroying the habitats of critically endangered orangutans, elephants, rhinoceroses, and tree kangaroos.

The report was published by Korea Federation for Environmental Movements (KFEM), South Korea’s largest environmental NGO, and APIL, a Korean human rights legal advocacy group, as part of a palm oil “Week of Action” in March. Their efforts around this report included a press conference, lectures, and meetings with key government ministries and agencies.

A variety of Korean companies are implicated in the report, including POSCO International – Korea’s largest trading company – and Korindo, a notorious Indonesian-Korean palm oil and timber conglomerate involved in massive-scale deforestation. KFEM and Mighty Earth first exposed Korindo in their 2016 Burning Paradise report. Since then, KFEM has worked closely with Mighty Earth to help rein in the South Korean palm oil industry, and the organization continues to break new ground on holding South Korean corporations accountable for their actions.

The report also exposed the Korean Forestry Service’s role in financing nearly 30,000 hectares of rainforest destruction in Papua, Indonesia by POSCO International, a scandal that was covered in an alarming segment (see below with English subtitles) from Korea Broadcasting Service (KBS).

This response from South Korea is evidence of a growing resistance to the destructive practices of the country’s palm oil industry. This progress also disproves the common belief that only Western consumers care about responsibly produced products, and suggests a path forward for curtailing the remaining markets for irresponsibly produced palm oil in Asia.


View the original segment here.



Cement is leading on climate and steel is falling behind

One of the largest cement companies in the world, Heidelberg Cement, just pledged to produce carbon-neutral concrete by 2050 and adopt Science-Based Targets (SBTs). Cement is one of the most carbon-intensive and widely used materials in the world, accounting for roughly 8 percent of all global emissions. The only material that rivals cement’s dominance is steel, which is responsible for roughly the same amount of global emissions every year. Together, they are the two most widely-used construction materials in the world. They are also the cornerstones of the heavy industrial sector, which accounts for 72percent of all industrial emissions. These industries have long been considered the most challenging sectors for emissions reductions – but that perception is shifting fast.

In response to the news, Mighty Earth Campaign Director Margaret Hansbrough said:

“While Heidelberg’s announcement shows that the cement industry is starting to step up in a major way, it also highlights the failure of the steel industry to come to the table. Why is the steel industry failing to lead on climate change? Global steel giants like ArcelorMittal, POSCO, Tata, and Nucor should be making the same kind of commitments as Heidelberg. Instead, they are largely silent or content with incremental actions. No major steel company has stepped up with a significant company-wide commitment to carbon neutrality, clean electricity, or Science-Based Targets. We hope that changes very soon.”

Mighty Earth has been pushing the steel industry to take climate action and make commitments on carbon neutrality.

New Dutch Law Combats Child Labor, Highlights Need for EU-Wide Standards on Cocoa

We are pleased to share excellent news from the Netherlands, where the Dutch Senate has approved a law that will combat the scourge of child labor by holding companies accountable for labor practices throughout their supply chains.

The new Dutch “due diligence” law will be especially important for the cocoa sector. Despite promises from the industry, 2.1 million kids still work in cocoa, 96% of whom are engaged in work considered hazardous.

The Netherlands is the #1 cocoa importing country in the world. Much of the world’s cocoa flows through Dutch ports. Amsterdam ranks as the largest cocoa port in the world. After decades of being a major source of problems, the Dutch have finally opted to be part of solutions.

Their law will likely have positive ramifications for the environment as well as human rights of children. One fundamental building block of ensuring zero child labor in any product - like chocolate for example - is full traceability in supply chains. That selfsame traceability is helpful in making sure cocoa didn’t come from inside a national park and wasn’t tied to destroying forests.

Due diligence laws like the one moving forward in the Netherlands can thus also help address deforestation, which, in tandem with the child labor problem, is cocoa’s other big dark secret. 

Thanks to the leadership of parliamentarians like Roelof van Laar and Attje Kuijken; the drive of NGOs like MVO Platform and SOMO; and the help of companies like Nestlé, Tony Chocolonely, Barry Callebaut, this law provides new hope to everyone working on problematic commodities that are traded through Holland like cocoa, palm oil, and soy.

Around the world, consumers are increasingly articulating higher expectations for the chocolate and other companies they buy from. There is an understanding that major corporations must be held accountable for the negative impacts that their sprawling supply chains have on communities and the environment. And if companies are unable to hold themselves to high enough standards, governments will step in and do it for them.

Major failures of the last few years have made it clear that voluntary corporate action has not effectively addressed child labor or environmental destruction in the cocoa sector. As a result, there are growing calls for an EU-wide due diligence regulation to address these issues. The new effort in the Netherlands echoes recent calls from member states of France, Germany, and Belgium for effective European regulation.

The time for piecemeal approaches is over. The EU should rise to the expectations of its citizens and move quickly to establish uniform due diligence requirements for cocoa.

Palm Oil: Report 15

Rapid Response Monitoring System

Palm Oil, Report 15 | May 2019 

Prepared with support from MapHubs

VIew as PDF

Additional Cases Identified Using Filtered GLAD Alerts: Hayel Saeed Anam Group: PT Kartika Cipta Pratama, KPP Group: PT Kayan Plantation, Unknown Group: PT Palmakharisma Sekawan, Unknown Group: PT Sawit Berkat Sejahtera, Korompis Family and Peak Capital: PF Berau Karetindo Lestari, Mitra Jaya Group: PT Sumber Sawit Mitrajaya, Metro Lestari Jaya Group: PT Sawit Mandiri Lestari, Unknown Group: PT Borneo Agro Sawit, Mariya Family: PT Malindo Jaya Diraja, Puncak Niaga Holdings: Danum Sinar (Sarawak), Unknown Group: PT Marita Makmur Jaya, Unknown Group: PT Borneo Estate Sejahtera, Unknown Group: PT Repindo Sawit Sejati

Sources for supply chain information:

Supply chain information included in Rapid Response reports is based on latest publicly versions of mill disclosures and grievance logs. Mighty Earth encourages companies to send updated versions of mill disclosures as soon as they become available and any decision to suspend supplies with a given group/company listed in those mill disclosures; please send to [email protected].