On World Rainforest Day, Global Brands Must Honor Commitment to End Deforestation by 2020

Global coalition of environmental and human rights groups calls on Consumer Goods Forum to back sustainability promises with clear actions to protect forests, the climate, and human rights

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, on World Rainforest Day, environmental and human rights advocates called on global brands to honor their commitment to end deforestation before a self-imposed deadline expires this year.

In a newly released letter sent to the Consumer Goods Forum, a CEO-level organization that brings together over 400 global retailers and manufacturers, a large and growing coalition of more than 75 environmental and human rights groups reiterated their 2019 call for CGF members to “take ambitious and immediate action to eliminate and remedy deforestation, peatland destruction, and human rights violations throughout their supply chains and support necessary legal and policy reforms.” In addition to climate and environmental concerns, the groups are also concerned that noxious haze from burning forests will further exacerbate the public health consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Last September, our organizations wrote to demand evidence that the CGF and its member companies are prepared to take real action to eliminate and remedy deforestation and human rights abuses in their supply chains,” the letter reads. “Since then, fires, deforestation, and human rights abuses have gotten worse—destroying irreplaceable ecosystems and threatening communities across Latin America, Africa, and Southeast Asia. Yet, CGF and its member companies have done little to leverage their market and supply chain influence for tangible change. Most egregiously, the CGF and its member companies have largely continued sourcing from the same suppliers responsible for deforestation and human rights abuses without repercussion or accountability—providing market access, contracts, and funds to the perpetrators of these continued violations.”

In 2009, CGF members pledged to end deforestation and human rights abuses in their supply chains by 2020, emphasizing the need for action in high risk commodities like soy, cattle, palm oil, and pulp and paper. Five years later, at the 2014 Climate Summit in New York, 60 additional companies joined in this pledge as a part of the New York Declaration on Forests. But deforestation increased last year- a disturbing trend highlighted by headline-grabbing fires in the Amazon- and early reports indicate that this year’s fire season will be even worse. Brazil just recorded its fourteenth-straight month of increased deforestation.

Ongoing and increasing deforestation poses risks to wildlife and ecosystems, exacerbates climate change, and may have disastrous public health consequences during the global COVID-19 pandemic. “The noxious haze from burning forests hospitalizes and kills hundreds of thousands of people due to respiratory illness under normal circumstances—a situation poised to be a public health catastrophe given COVID-19,” the letter notes. “These fires are preventable, and those companies that continue to provide funding and contracts to those responsible for the fires will be held publicly accountable for this unfurling environmental and human rights crisis.”

The original letter, which the CGF never responded to, asks the CGF to:

  • Reduce consumption of high-risk commodities
  • Communicate a mandatory requirement for CGF members’ suppliers to halt conversion of tropical rainforests for agricultural commodities
  • Ensure recognition and respect for local communities’ customary land rights and compliance with international standards of Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC) in commodity supply chains
  • Accelerate the enforcement of a moratorium on clearance of High Conservation Value (HCV) areas, High Carbon Stock (HCS) forests, and peatlands
  • Publish guidelines to address non-compliance in supply chains, including thresholds to determine the status of sourcing and suspension or termination of non-compliant suppliers, as well as formal grievance redress processes for human rights, land conflict, and labor violations
  • Adopt human rights and grievance redress policies protecting human rights defenders from violence and intimidation, including pledging zero tolerance for murder and violence against defenders
  • Update business practices to actively provide incentives and support to upstream suppliers to enable and ensure compliance
  • Publish annual reports detailing the progress of CGF member companies.
  • Support legislative and regulatory measures in demand-side markets to address deforestation linked to the international trade in agricultural commodities
  • Support and fund the necessary transition toward ecological and just food systems and large-scale forest conservation and restoration

Sumitomo Doubles Down on Coal, Releases More Rhetoric on Sustainability

Japanese conglomerate plans to continue work on disastrous coal plant project in Bangladesh despite climate, public health, budgetary, and environmental concerns

WASHINGTON, DC and TOKYO – Environmental organizations are criticizing Sumitomo Corporation, a Japanese conglomerate, after it failed to announce any new concrete actions to address climate change or end its investments in fossil fuels. Sumitomo issued a revised climate policy (Eng. translation) just before its June 19, 2020 shareholders meeting, committing the company to “carbon neutrality” by 2050. However, Sumitomo signaled no intent to abandon its involvement in coal, including the construction of the much-maligned Matarbari Coal Plant project. Mighty Earth had called upon Sumitomo to announce a concrete coal-phase out plan by its 2020 shareholder meeting and immediately end its involvement in new coal plants.

With revenues heavily impacted by COVID-19, Sumitomo Corporation announced to investors in May that it would “execute drastic structural reforms for each of our businesses and the Sumitomo Corporation Group as a whole, including the review of our strategies on portfolio management for increasing corporate value and the enhancement of sustainability management.” The revised sustainability and climate policies (Japanese) were long on rhetoric but short on action.

“On climate change, Sumitomo continues to resist making actual change,” said Roger Smith, Japan Project Manager for Mighty Earth. “Despite crashing coal prices, low energy demand, and an international movement towards ‘green recoveries,’ Sumitomo is doubling down on fossil fuels. Sumitomo needs to exit coal and end their involvement in coal plants, including Matarbari in Bangladesh where they lead the construction.”

“Sumitomo released a climate policy in August 2019 that has been proven to be largely meaningless,” said Smith. “The policy has loopholes that allow Sumitomo to continue building new coal plants it deems ‘essential,’ including dirty projects that should be abandoned, like the Van Phong I coal plant in Vietnam. Their policy doesn’t even cover building coal plants for other companies, like the Matarbari coal plants in Bangladesh.”

This week Sumitomo amended their climate policy to include a goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050, which would cover its energy businesses, but left in loopholes allowing them to continue to develop coal. The actions Sumitomo takes now will determine whether or not they can reduce their emissions in time.

“Sumitomo set a date to reduce emissions that is 30 years in the future without interim goals or even a timeline to develop a plan. This is too little, too late,” said Smith. “Sumitomo needs to amend their policy to completely shut the door on new coal and phase out existing coal plants globally by 2040 to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement.”

"Bangladeshi people have as much right to clean energy and clean air as people in Japan, but Sumitomo Corporation’s climate policy loophole risks locking in decades more polluting coal power," stated Munira Chowdhury, Bangladeshi citizen and Analyst for Market Forces (an affiliate project of Friends of the Earth Australia).

"Pollution from the Matarbari Coal Plant (Phase 1) is estimated to cause up to 18,000 premature deaths during its operational years," said Hasan Mehedi, Member Secretary, Bangladesh Working Group on External Debt (BWGED). "Bangladesh’s air quality has already been ranked among the worst in the world. I think Japanese citizens would be outraged to know their tax money will end up hurting and even killing people in Bangladesh."

Environmental organizations with the international No Coal Japan coalition published a “10 Reasons Why Sumitomo’s Matarbari Coal Plant is a Terrible Idea” about the over-budget, behind schedule Matarbari project in advance of Sumitomo’s AGM, with heavy promotion on social media.

“Everyone knows the Matarbari Coal Plant is an overbudget, shortsighted boondoggle,” said Smith. “For Sumitomo to double down and be involved in building a second Matarbari Coal Plant is baffling.”

"There is already enough electricity, and renewable energy is cheaper than coal in Bangladesh,” said Yuki Tanabe, a program director for Japan Center for a Sustainable Environment and Society (JACSES). “The Government of Japan should not provide aid support for the climate-destroying Matarbari phase 2 project, and Sumitomo should not participate in any additional construction."

Sumitomo had previously told investors that the company would “continue to closely monitor international efforts and changes in the business environment, and will revise the [climate] policy as appropriate,” leading to speculation that the company would announce concrete new actions in 2020.

“We are disappointed Sumitomo has failed to show greater leadership on climate change. The COVID-19 crisis provided a perfect opportunity to dump unprofitable coal businesses and pivot to clean energy. It’s time for Sumitomo’s investors to ask when company leadership will issue their roadmap to exit coal,” concluded Smith.

Ten Reasons Why Sumitomo's Matarbari Coal Plant is a Terrible Idea

A climate disaster in the form of an over-budget, behind-schedule boondoggle

Bangladesh, already at the mercy of climate change’s rising sea levels and increasingly severe tropical cyclones, has turned to Japan for help building its energy infrastructure. But despite Bangladesh’s commitment to using 100 percent renewable energy, the Japanese government and Sumitomo Corporation are proceeding with the construction of a new coal power plant in Matarbari, next to Bangladesh’s major coastal tourist area. Unbelievably, Japan’s government is considering whether to finance yet another coal plant in Matarbari.

The first Matarbari coal plant is a disaster – it is expensive, a bad investment, and an embarrassment to Sumitomo and Japan. Here are ten reasons why a second plant should never see the light of day.

The Matarbari coal project is:

1. A mismanaged money pit
The project was already 30% over budget and at least a year behind schedule before the global pandemic hit.1 In a desperate bid to defray the project’s high costs, Japan is considering doubling-down on a bad investment and building an additional coal plant in Matarbari.2 Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs is expected to decide whether to proceed with an additional plant this summer.

2. Destroying the value of the “Made in Japan” label
For decades, “Made in Japan” has long meant precision craftsmanship at reasonable prices, but that is not what Sumitomo Corporation is planning for Bangladesh. The Matarbari coal plant units 1 & 2 will use unnecessarily polluting technology that would never be allowed in Japan, polluting up to 21 times the amount of SO2 and 10 times the amount of deadly particles than an average new coal plant in Japan.3 Why is Japan dumping dirty technologies in developing countries?


Matarbari Van Phong I Japan (median emissions 25 units post 2012)
820 mg/Nm3 for SO2 360 SO2 38mg/Nm3 SO2
460 mg/Nm3 for NOx 300 NOx 54 mg/Nm3 NOx
50 mg/Nm3 for particulate matter 47 mg/Nm3 for particulate matter 5mg/Nm3 for particulate matter


3. Bad for health
The excessive pollution from the Matarbari coal plant units 1 & 2 would put nearby communities significantly over WHO health guidelines for concentrations of air pollution. Air pollution contributes to respiratory diseases and even premature death.4 The construction of additional coal plants would further pollute the air and water.

4. A dirty debt trap
The Matarbari coal plant units 1 & 2 resulted from a non-competitive bidding process, a sweetheart deal that includes up-front financing from the Japanese government and construction carried out by Sumitomo Corporation, a Japanese company.5 Japan’s assistance comes at a price -- local media reported the cost of electricity from this plant is anticipated to be excessively high due to the construction delays, cost overruns and related coal infrastructure needed. If Japan doubles down on this project to try to defray costs, it would lock Bangladeshis into a high debt, high carbon and high pollution future.

5. More expensive than renewable energy alternatives
Japan could use its technological knowhow to help Bangladesh transition to a clean, renewable energy future. Energy analysts found that solar power would not only be cleaner, but also a far cheaper approach than coal for Bangladesh, with the levelized electricity cost of solar PV estimated at $91/MWh (USD) compared to an average coal cost of $110/MWh,6 and the Matarbari Units 1 & 2 reported to produce electricity at a staggering $135/MWh (or 13.5 cents/KWh).7 Bangladeshi ratepayers should not be saddled with high energy costs when their country has an abundance of solar potential.

6. A source of new climate changing emissions in a nation vulnerable to climate impacts
Matarbari Units 1 & 2 are under construction, with the Japanese government considering financing two more coal units. This is ironic, as Bangladesh is particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, especially sea level rise and flooding, and has joined countries in similar circumstances as part of the Climate Vulnerable Forum.

7. Bad for workers
Bangladeshi news sources have reported that construction workers for Matarbari Units 1 & 2 went on strike after being forced to work during a national lockdown for COVID-19.8 Sumitomo Corporation should ensure that its partners and contractors respect workers’ rights and health, especially during a global pandemic. This double-standard is especially hypocritical as Sumitomo Corporation’s 4000 Japanese employees were directed to work from home starting on March 1,9 well before a state of emergency was declared for the Tokyo region on April 7, 2020. Sadly, this behavior is unsurprising, as Sumitomo has weaker protections for human rights than its Japanese trading company peers10 and only established a basic human rights policy this May.11

8. Against Japan’s climate commitments
Japan’s participation in the Paris Agreement led the Cabinet to adopt a policy in 2019 to develop infrastructure which helps contribute to global reductions of CO2 emissions. It is inconsistent for the Japanese government and Japanese companies like Sumitomo continue to build coal plants abroad. Furthermore, as Bangladesh has affordable clean energy alternatives, the proposed Matarbari coal plant does not meet the test laid out in Japan’s Fifth Strategic Energy Plan (2018) that new coal would be considered: “only for countries that have no choice but to select coal as a key source of energy from the viewpoints of energy security and economic efficiency.”12

9. Bad for local residents
Densely populated, an estimated 90,000 people lived on Matarbari and relied upon shrimp farming and salt cultivation for their livelihoods. That changed in 2013 when communities were forced into a land acquisition process for 5,000 acres to make way for the new coal plants and related coal infrastructure. A survey of residents found many were unable to take part in compensation programs, not provided with alternative employment, and left without their place of work or homes.13 Advocates note that these delays in compensation, alternate housing, and employment do not meet the Japan International Cooperation Agency’s Guidelines for Environmental and Social Considerations.14

10. Bad for the tourist economy
Matarbari Island, the site of the project, lies near Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar, an area beloved by tourists for its natural beauty, long sandy shorelines, wildlife sanctuaries, marine reserve, and national parks.15 Air pollution and water pollution from these new coal plants threaten the long-term viability of Cox’s Bazar as a tourist destination and damage the potential for future economic development.

The world is watching to see what Japan will do. Will Bangladeshis be locked into a dirty debt trap with high electricity prices, high air pollution and high global warming pollution? A coalition of organizations in Japan, Bangladesh and across the world are calling upon on the Japanese government to reject financing for a second coal plant at Matarbari.16 For the sake of the company’s reputation, Sumitomo Corporation should withdraw from its role managing and building the Matarbari coal plants.

Sign our petition and tell Sumitomo to be a climate leader, not part of the problem


[1] “Matarbari Power doesn’t bother to disclose Tk10,000cr cost hike.” The Business Standard. Dec. 21, 2019. https://tbsnews.net/bangladesh/energy/matarbari-power-doesnt-bother-disclose-tk10000cr-cost-hike

[2] “Plan to construct 2nd power plant to reduce cost of Matarbari project.” Energy Bangla.  May 31, 2019.

[3] Greenpeace Southeast Asia and Greenpeace Japan. A Deadly Double Standard — How Japan’s Financing of Highly Polluting Overseas Coal Plants Endangers Public Health. Aug. 20, 2019. p 19. https://www.greenpeace.org/southeastasia/publication/2887/double-standard-how-japans-financing-of-highly-polluting-overseas-coalplants-endangers-public-health/

[4] A Deadly Double Standard. p. 23, 24.

[5] The tourist capital of Bangladesh is endangered by plans to build the largest coal power hub in the world. p. 24

[6] Shirashi, Kenji, Daniel Kammen, et. al. "Identifying High Priority Clean Energy Investment Opportunities for Bangladesh." International Centre for Climate Change and Development. Feb. 18, 2018. p. 2. http://www.icccad.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/Identifying_investment_Opportunities-for-clean-energy-options-in-Bangladesh.pdf

[7] “Plan to construct 2nd power plant to reduce cost of Matarbari project.”

[8] Samakal News link

[9] Sumitomo Corporation. “Announcement of Work from Home for All Employees” (COVID-19 countermeasure) News Release. https://www.sumitomocorp.com/ja/jp/news/important/group/20200228

[10] Human Rights Now. “Survey Results and Report Regarding 7 General Trading Companies’ Human Rights Policy and Implementation Status.” Feb. 2020.
Japanese: http://hrn.or.jp/news/17225/
English overview: https://hrn.or.jp/eng/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/HRN-Report-on-Japanese-Trading-Companies-and-Human-Rights.pdf

[11] https://www.sumitomocorp.com/en/jp/sustainability/csr#02

[12] Fifth Strategic Energy Plan (Provisional Translation), July 2018. p. 72. https://www.enecho.meti.go.jp/en/category/others/basic_plan/5th/pdf/strategic_energy_plan.pdf

[13] The tourist capital of Bangladesh is endangered by plans to build the largest coal power hub in the world. p. 23-26

[14] Japan Center for a Sustainable Environment and Society (JACSES). “Factsheet: Matarbari Ultra Super Critical Coal-Fired Power Project (Bangladesh).” Aug. 2019. https://sekitan.jp/jbic/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/Matarbari-Factsheet-20190801_EG.pdf

[15] Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon (BAPA), Waterkeepers Bangladesh. The tourist capital of Bangladesh is endangered by plans to build the largest coal power hub in the world. Nov. 2019. p. 2, 13.

[16] “Demand letter to the PM Abe: Don’t finance the phase 2 of Matarbari coal-fired power project in Bangladesh” No Coal Japan website. Apr. 6, 2020. http://www.nocoaljapan.org/demand-letter-to-the-pm-abe-dont-finance-the-phase2-of-matarbari-in-bangladesh/

Ending Gag Lawsuits in Europe: Protecting Democracy and Fundamental Rights

Mighty Earth has joined 119 other NGOs to publish a policy paper advising the EU to put an end to gag lawsuits. Gag lawsuits, also known as Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPPs) are lawsuits filed by powerful interests (like corporations or high-profile individuals) to harass and drain substantial resources from smaller watchdog organizations, activists, journalists, trade unions, activists, media organizations, and those who represent the public interest. SLAPPs are a threat to democracy, fundamental rights, including freedom of expression, and the right to to assembly, for those who speak out in the public interest. It is vital that the scope of anti-SLAPP measures include everybody affected by SLAPPs, including journalists, activists, trade unionists, academics, digital security researchers, human rights defenders, media and civil society organizations, among others. 

 Recent examples of SLAPPs include Paypal libel against SumOfUs for a peaceful protest outside its headquarters in Germany, or Bollore Group’s 20 lawsuits against NGOs Sherpa and ReAct in France to stop them reporting human rights abuses in Cameroon. When Maltese journalist Daphne Caurana Galizia was brutally killed she had 47 SLAPPs pending against her. Greenpeace offices and campaigners have been sued by many companies across the world, including by Resolute Forest Products. 

Read the policy paper here. 

Mighty Earth Stands for Racial Justice

A joint statement from all of us at Mighty Earth:

The tragic killing of George Floyd has left us saddened, angry, and hurt. We mourn for George Floyd as we have for Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and too many others.

Racism is endemic in the U.S., and we must speak the truth about it. We have seen it in our work, where so many of the issues we care about – air and water pollution, climate change, destruction of native ecosystems, and the global pandemic – disproportionately harm or target black communities, local communities, Indigenous peoples, and other communities of color. And we have seen it in our movement, because no organization, system, or campaign in this country is immune to the destructive influences of white supremacy and systemic racism.

Our fight against these ecological crises is therefore inextricable from our struggle against the systems of oppression. There is no climate justice without racial justice.

We at Mighty Earth condemn racism in all its forms and resolve to find new ways to fight it. We reject police brutality and defend the indispensable right to protest, so that individual and collective voices can fight for – and win – justice and equality.

We pledge to continue the hard but essential work to improve ourselves and our own behaviors, engage deeply with the communities in which we live and work while prioritizing the voices of those most affected, and challenge and heal the violence of structural oppression. 

We stand in solidarity with those targeted by police violence and the protesters demanding justice. Black Lives Matter.

Supermarkets Urged to Actually Stop Buying from Companies Destroying the Amazon

Ahold Delhaize, Costco, others urged to immediately adopt robust sourcing policies to build on success of recent demands that Brazil stop allowing bulldozing of Amazon, killing of Indigenous people

WASHINGTON, DC – In new letters released publicly today, Mighty Earth is calling on 21 of the largest supermarkets and retailers in Europe and the United States to back up their stated commitments to environmental standards with new policies that would immediately cancel contracts with deforesting suppliers including Cargill, Bunge, and JBS.

"Forests around the world are being intentionally torched. Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon is higher than it’s been in a decade, and anti-environment fanatics are determined to use the cover of the coronavirus pandemic to wreak further havoc," said Mighty Earth CEO Glenn Hurowitz. "Our planet is in crisis. The time for polite requests to stop deforestation has passed. It’s time to cut contracts with those responsible. Customers are demanding sustainable options, and simply do not want their local grocery store stocking its shelves with products of destroyed rainforests and ethnic cleansing."

The letters, sent to the CEOs of Ahold Delhaize, Albertsons Companies, Amazon, Aramark, Compass Group, Costco, Edeka Group, Kroger, Lidl, Marks & Spencer, Metro Group, Morisons, Rewe, Sainsbury's, Sysco, Target, Tesco, Trader Joe's, Walmart, Wegmans, and Whole Foods, note that the recent actions of British supermarkets have "demonstrated the power that the private sector can deploy to protect the environment and human rights." The letter is also being sent to consumer goods companies like Unilever and Mars .

An open letter to the Brazilian Congress warned that a proposed law to open up the Amazon rainforest to further destruction would "put at risk the ability of organisations such as ours to continue sourcing from Brazil in the future," citing the Amazon’s wildlife and its crucial role in the climate and water cycles. Upon receiving the letter, the Brazilian government almost immediately delayed voting on the bill. Many of the companies that Mighty Earth has reached out to were signatories on the British supermarket letter.

"These companies have the market leverage and they have demonstrated the capacity and willingness to use it. We have seen market pressure work to prevent environmental destruction – and remarkably quickly," said Hurowitz. "But food brans now must turn their attention to dealing with suppliers that are driving this deforestation. If these companies can move the Brazilian government, they can move the companies that rely on supplier contracts to stay in business."

The letters outline the ongoing crisis, saying that "deforestation in South America has surged over the last year, in large measure because a small number of critical companies that supply meat and animal feed continue to drive massive deforestation and human rights abuses. We are therefore calling on you to adopt a no-deforestation policy with a clear non-compliance protocol that results in suspended or cancelled contracts with violating suppliers such as Cargill, Bunge, and JBS."

Investigations into the destruction in South America have repeatedly uncovered these three companies at the root of the problem. Chain Reaction Research recently released an investor report that documented that the number of fires identified in the vicinity of Bunge and Cargill facilities was higher than all the other main soy traders combined.  Similarly, in cattle, JBS alone had 317,096 fires inside its buying area, triple what the next largest fire-linked company had. The findings echoed Mighty Earth’s mapping analysis from 2019.

In Bolivia, where Cargill is the leading international soy trader, the company has been tied to repeated deforestation, with similar results for Cargill and Bunge in Argentina and Paraguay, respectively. These companies have also been linked to irresponsible labor practices, endangering workers during the coronavirus crisis with unsafe working conditions even as their practices around the globe make the next pandemic more likely.


High resolution photos and videos are available for use – please contact [email protected] for access.

Mighty Earth reports

Additional materials

Stop Destroying the Planet & Shop Responsibly

"As a concerned consumer, I can only do so much when making my purchasing decisions. Ultimately, the responsibility is Stop&Shop’s, so I hope the CEO can make the decision to cut ties with Cargill in an effort to create a more sustainable future for our planet."

- Victoria Deever | Stop & Shop Customer, MA

The meat industry is the leading cause of water pollution and deforestation. A small handful of companies control the meat industry and are responsible for its impact.

In Massachusetts, customers and other community members have recently joined Mighty Earth’s call for Stop & Shop to implement environmental standards for their meat and to cut ties with Cargill, a company responsible for water pollution across the U.S. and deforestation across Latin America.

Community members are asking Stop & Shop to ensure that shelves are stocked with products from responsible suppliers that are taking care of our environment.

This spring community members took the following actions: 

Grocery Stores Threatening Brazil Boycott Must Go Further to Truly Protect Forests

Leading international supermarkets recently wrote a letter to Brazilian lawmakers, threatening a boycott over a proposed law that would open up the Amazon to deforestation and exploitation. In response to the letter, Mighty Earth CEO Glenn Hurowitz released the following statement:

"It's great to see supermarkets like Stop & Shop owner Ahold Delhaize stepping up and using their leverage as major buyers from Brazil to stop this terrible bill. These companies seem to understand that ongoing complicity in President Jair Bolsonaro's ecocide poses a severe danger to their reputations and brands. They are right. Nobody wants to go to their local grocery store and buy chicken or steak connected to the destruction of an ancient rainforest or the displacement of Indigenous peoples.

“But these companies shouldn’t need the threat of this legislation to act. Day in and day out, Stop & Shop is keeping suppliers like Cargill and JBS – the companies largely responsible for the destruction of the Amazon and other ecosystems – in business by buying their meat and feed.

"Until grocery stores start canceling contracts with the suppliers driving the burning of the Amazon, they remain complicit in the destruction. Their customers and the world expect these brands not just to call for action, but to act."

Indigenous Papuan Man Killed by Brutal Beating at Korindo Palm Oil Plantation

Mighty Earth recently received news of the tragic death of an Indigenous Papuan man and former palm oil plantation employee named Marius Betera, who was brutally beaten at the hands of the local police authorities and died hours later.

The news came from Mighty Earth’s civil society partners in Papua, Indonesia. SKP KAMe Meruake, a Catholic humanitarian organization based in the area where this incident occurred, issued a statement in response to the killing, which shares detailed testimony from witnesses concerning the circumstances of Betera's death. The statement also notes that large companies like Korindo frequently use violence to repress community concerns, with local police commonly acting as company security. The statement further calls for immediate action to bring the perpetrator to justice and for the local government to provide strict sanctions on companies that violate laws and regulations, ranging from the revocation of licenses to the restoration of Indigenous rights.

According to eyewitness accounts, Betera was attacked at the office of a palm oil plantation company owned by Korindo Group, a notorious Korean-Indonesian logging and palm oil conglomerate with a long record of deforestation and exploitation of indigenous communities in Indonesia. Betera had reportedly come to the company's office to lodge a complaint after the recent destruction of his banana plantation, which he suspected had been cleared by a Korindo company excavator the previous day.

In response to the news, Mighty Earth Senior Campaign Director, Deborah Lapidus, released the following statement:

“Our hearts go out to the family and friends of Marius Betera, who are now suffering as result of this appalling act of violence. There must be swift action by local law enforcement and Korindo to ensure justice is provided to Betera’s family and his community.

“But the response can't stop there. Our investigations into Korindo's operations have exposed the company’s record of wanton disregard for and exploitation of Papuan rainforests and the indigenous people who call those forests home. Yet Korindo has largely dismissed these concerns, or, when it could no longer avoid accountability, merely paid lip service to agreements to improve its practices. One such agreement, as stated on the Korindo website, is to ‘resolve grievances promptly, responsibly, responsively, and proactively;’ yet Betera’s grievance resulted in his death.

“The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), which certifies its member companies’ adherence to environmental and human rights standards, should also immediately open its own investigation into this alleged act of violence and suppression, especially in light of Korindo’s earlier agreement with FSC to ‘comply with the principle of Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) and remediate its negative impacts on communities.’”

A two-year investigation of Korindo's deforestation practices by the FSC, prompted by a complaint filed by Mighty Earth, found that, among other violations, Korindo had violated traditional and human rights in Papua and North Maluku, Indonesia. The investigative reports detailed how Korindo had repeatedly manipulated, intimidated, and cheated communities, impacting their health, livelihoods, and rights.

Under pressure from Korindo, the FSC stopped short of sanctioning or withdrawing its certification of Korindo. Instead, in its agreement with the FSC, Korindo committed to “Undertake remedy and improvement processes to assure social measures have been and will be fair and proportionate and subject to FPIC of affected communities in Papua and North Maluku.” To date, the FSC has not provided any updates on the stakeholder process it promised to initiate that will determine Korindo’s liabilities to local communities and its deforestation legacy. The FSC further stated that “FSC will closely monitor Korindo’s progress of its implementation of the measures and conditions stipulated by FSC. Failure to satisfactorily meet these conditions would be basis for FSC to end its association with the company.”

Photo: A Korindo-owned plantation in Papua, © Mighty Earth 2016

Unilever, Mars, Hershey, and World's Largest Palm Oil Traders Suspend Rogue Supplier Over Its Relentless Deforestation

Notorious tycoon-owned timber and palm oil conglomerate Samling scrambles to adopt sham “No Deforestation” policy to keep customers while continuing to destroy rainforests

Some of the world’s largest consumer goods brands and their palm oil suppliers have suspended one of Malaysia’s most notorious timber and palm oil conglomerates, Samling Group, due to its relentless deforestation. To date, major consumer brands including Unilever, Mars, and Hershey – as well as palm oil traders including ADM, Bunge, Cargill, IOI, KLK, Louis Dreyfus, Sime Darby, Fuji Oil, and Wilmar (the world’s largest palm oil trader) – have suspended Samling from their supply chains.

As part of its Rapid Response deforestation monitoring program, Mighty Earth has documented at least 886 hectares of deforestation during the period September 2018-March 2020 in Samling’s timber plantation concessions in Sarawak, Malaysia.

Samling’s palm oil operations cover around 40,000 hectares in Malaysia and Indonesia, whereas its industrial tree plantation licences in Sarawak cover over 200,000 hectares, an area over five times the size of Singapore.

“Unilever, Mars, Hershey and others have acted swiftly by instructing their palm oil suppliers to impose a procurement suspension of Samling for its global supply chain. Samling has responded to these suspensions with a desperate bid to keep its remaining palm oil customers – not by halting all its forest clearance, but by holding up a shiny policy with one hand to distract its customers while continuing deforestation with the other hand,” said Mighty Earth Senior Campaign Director Deborah Lapidus.

A Samling-owned palm oil company – Glenealy Plantations – has declared a moratorium on further oil palm development and issued a no-deforestation policy. However, the new policy fails to stop Samling’s largest source of ongoing deforestation – its continued expansion of monoculture timber plantations. In addition, Glenealy’s oil palm land bank is mostly developed already, making the impact of the new policy minimal.

Palm oil trader Sime Darby informed Mighty Earth that: “We would like to confirm that we have notified Samling that we will no longer be sourcing from them due to concerns raised by our key customers. Central to these concerns is the adoption of NDPE [No Deforestation, No Peat, and No Exploitation] commitments across the whole Samling Group, and not just for Glenealy Plantations.” Fuji Oil, another palm oil trader, has also suspended Samling on the basis that its continued deforestation is not aligned with Fuji Oil’s Palm Oil Sourcing Policy and group-level association.

Publicly available mill sourcing lists and other data indicate that companies including BLD Plantations (KTS Group), Sarawak Oil Palms (Shin Yang Group), Nestlé, Mondelez, and PepsiCo have yet to take action to exclude Samling from their supply chains, despite having No Deforestation policies.

“In our outreach to Samling’s palm oil buyers, many stated that they didn’t need to take action because Samling’s deforestation was for timber, not palm oil. But a rainforest being destroyed for timber plantations is just as bad as a rainforest being destroyed for palm oil, and the profits are going to the same shareholders of the Samling group. There is no excuse for a company with a No Deforestation policy to be buying from rogue deforesters like Samling, plain and simple,” said Lapidus.

Founded by Datuk Yaw Teck Seng over 50 years ago, the Samling Group has a long track record of forest destruction and violations of the rights of indigenous peoples. In 2017, a coalition of Burmese civil society groups published a report detailing land grabbing, indigenous rights violations, and environmental problems in Samling’s palm oil operations in Myanmar. Findings included Samling’s role in the pollution of local water sources and clear-cutting of forests inside a proposed national park that is home to endangered tigers. A February 2020 article by The Sarawak Report, a NGO run by a British investigative journalist, alleges that a Samling-related company in Papua New Guinea has failed to “pay four indigenous groups nearly USD$100 million in compensation for large-scale illegal logging, environmental destruction and serious human rights abuses related to the Kiunga – Aiambak road project in Papua New Guinea.” This finding is based on a 2011 Papua New Guinea court judgment. A 2002 Greenpeace International report on this ‘road project’ (‘Partners in Crime’) described it as an unlawful, destructive ploy to open up new areas of rainforest for logging.

European Tire & Rubber Manufacturers Plan to Put More Vehicles on the Roads in Response to Covid-19

On May 5, 2020, the European Tire and Rubber Manufacturers' Association (ETRMA) published an Action Plan for the EU to kick-start the automotive sector following the Covid-19 pandemic. In response, Mighty Earth Senior Campaign Director Julian Oram released the following statement:

"While we welcome the industry's stated commitment to the European Green Deal, we believe that one of the key demands of the ETRMA's Action Plan could be at odds with such a pledge.

"ETRMA's proposal for an EU-funded vehicle renewal scheme would likely increase car ownership and could pose serious public health risks. Even if coupled with incentives for private owners to trade in older vehicles for newer ones, the overall impact of the program is likely to be more cars on Europe's roads, exacerbating congestion and increasing pollution and emissions. Europe needs to be moving in precisely the opposite direction: looking to reduce private car ownership, boost spending on clean, green forms of public mobility, and cut particulate emissions that could exacerbate respiratory problems for people infected with Covid-19.

"The ERTMA's demand to 'postpone all non-essential public consultations' combined with a call to accelerate the EU's vehicle type approval process 'as quickly as possible' could also set a worrying precedent of bypassing important democratic checks and balances in regulatory oversight and should be strongly resisted by the European Commission.

"EU bailout packages should be strictly conditional on building new, low-carbon economy. Any policy incentives or financial assistance directed towards auto, tire, and rubber companies cannot simply seek to resuscitate thindustry as it was, but must instead help stimulate a green transformation. In the wake of the current crisis, such a transition is more urgent than ever. Mighty Earth will therefore endeavor to work with both policymakers and members of the ERTMA to ensure that short-term measures to support the sector are fully aligned with the longer-term vision of a new Green Deal for Europe."


Image: Photo by Sorin Gheorghita on Unsplash

Le « plus grand agriculteur au monde » fait l’objet d’une enquête sur la déforestation

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Olam a défriché des forêts tropicales équivalant à plus de la moitié de la superficie de Singapour 

Le Forest Stewardship Council (Conseil pour la bonne gestion des forêts, FSC), une organisation mondiale pour la promotion de la gestion responsable des forêts, vient d’ouvrir une enquête sur la responsabilité d’Olam International dans des opérations de déforestation. Avec la commercialisation de 47 produits agricoles provenant de 70 pays différents, Olam International est le plus grand agriculteur au monde.

L’organisation examinera la plainte déposée en décembre 2016 par Mighty Earth auprès de FSC, qui fournit des preuves accablantes qu’Olam a défriché de vastes zones de forêts tropicales au Gabon pour y développer des plantations de palmiers à huile et d’hévéas et a, par conséquent, violé la Politique d’association du FSC. La plainte a été déposée sur la base des preuves révélées dans le rapport « La Boîte noire du commerce de l’huile de palme », co-écrit par Mighty Earth et l’organisation gabonaise Brainforest, dirigée par le lauréat du prix Goldman, Marc Ona Essangui.

Dans sa réponse, Olam a admis avoir défriché 25 735 hectares de forêt tropicale alors que la société établissait ses plantations de palmiers à huile au Gabon : « 58 % (25 735 ha) de la superficie plantée était à l’origine une forêt secondaire fortement exploitée et dégradée ». De tels niveaux de déforestation violent la Politique d’association du FSC. Cette Politique a justement été établie pour garantir qu’aucune entreprise ne puisse bénéficier de la certification de bonne gestion forestière du FSC si elle se livre à des activités ayant des impacts dévastateurs sur les écosystèmes, la biodiversité et les droits des populations habitant les forêts.

En février 2017, à la suite de négociations entre Mighty Earth et Olam, arbitrées par le World Resources Institute, la société a accepté de suspendre pendant un an tout nouveau défrichement de forêts tropicales au Gabon lié au développement de ses plantations de palmiers à huile et d’hévéas. Olam a également révisé sa politique relative à l’huile de palme, sa politique mondiale sur la façon dont elle traite les travailleurs et sa politique mondiale de protection des forêts pour l’ensemble de ses produits agricoles. Mighty Earth a donc accepté de suspendre pour une durée d’un an sa campagne ciblant les activités d’Olam dans les secteurs de l’huile de palme et du caoutchouc, y compris sa plainte auprès du FSC. Adoptant une démarche tournée vers le dialogue, Mighty Earth a renouvelé ces accords en janvier 2018, de manière à poursuivre les échanges et résoudre conjointement ces questions d’intérêt mutuel.

Pourtant, ni en 2017 ni en 2018, l’entreprise n’a abordé la question de sa responsabilité en matière de déforestation au Gabon. Le FSC, Mighty Earth et Olam ont donc convenu d’un processus de résolution alternatif et volontaire pour résoudre les problèmes identifiés dans la plainte. Le FSC a chargé un évaluateur accrédité par le FSC (SmartCert) de mener l’enquête, qui sera financée par Olam.

« Nous ne pouvons que nous réjouir qu’Olam ait cessé de défricher la forêt tropicale pour développer ses plantations de palmiers à huile et d’hévéas, mais la société doit assumer la responsabilité des destructions qu’elle a commise par le passé, a déclaré Etelle Higonnet, directrice de campagne senior pour Mighty Earth. Aucune société ne devrait s’en tirer en enfreignant les règles imposées par le FSC sur la déforestation. Elles existent pour une raison très simple : protéger les forêts tropicales qui contribuent à leur tour à protéger l’humanité du chaos climatique. »

L’enquête préliminaire ne portera que sur les plantations de palmiers à huile d’Olam, à la demande de l’entreprise. Une deuxième enquête du FSC portera sur la déforestation liée aux plantations d’hévéas d’Olam exploitées au Gabon. Mighty Earth estime qu’Olam a défriché environ 11 000 hectares de forêt tropicale entre 2012 et 2016 pour ses plantations d’hévéas dans le nord du Gabon. Ces faits ont été documentés par des vidéos infiltrées, réalisées par Brainforest et disponibles en ligne.

« Au final, Olam aura défriché près de 40 000 hectares de forêt tropicale au Gabon pour faire place à de vastes plantations de palmiers à huile et d’hévéas, a expliqué Etelle Higonnet. Ceci constitue indubitablement une violation des normes du FSC. Par le passé, le FSC a exclu de son processus de certification des sociétés avec un niveau de déforestation aussi élevé. L’organisation espère que cette procédure alternative permettra à Olam de réparer le préjudice causé par la déforestation, sans qu’il soit nécessaire de lui retirer le label. Nous espérons aussi que tout se déroulera pour le mieux et nous suivrons de près ce processus pour veiller à ce que justice soit faite. »

Crédit d'image: Lyg 2001 / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)

New Report: Pork giant Danish Crown linked to tropical deforestation

Every year, the Danish meat giant Danish Crown produces huge amounts of pork from pigs fed with soy that has come from deforested areas in South America. A new report from Rainforest Foundation Norway, Mighty Earth in the United States, and Forests of the World in Denmark charts the connection between Danish Crown’s soy imports and environmental destruction in South America. 

Denmark imports more than 1.7 million tons of soy every year to feed livestock, and about 53 percent of that soy is used as pig feed. 83 percent of these imports comes from South America, mainly Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay. In these countries, the soy is often grown in areas where tropical forests have previously been cleared and burned.

Deforestation, which in 2019 led to a record number of forest fires in South America, is destroying the habitats of countless animal and plant species, emitting huge amounts of CO2, and depriving indigenous communities of their homes and livelihoods. Soy is one of the primary drivers of deforestation in South America.

The new report, titled “How the Sausage Gets Made,” documents the links between Danish Crown’s soy supply and regions in South America where soy-driven deforestation is occurring. It also calls out Danish Crown for failing to offer a guarantee that its soy has not caused deforestation and for sourcing from Cargill, a global agribusiness with a record of deforestation and ecological destruction so severe that Mighty Earth recently named it the “Worst Company in the World”. Rainforest Foundation Norway, Mighty Earth, and Forests of the World are calling on the company to ensure full traceability of soy in its forthcoming Action Plan for Responsible Soy.

“As Europe's largest pork producers, Danish Crown has a huge responsibility to ensure that the soy that goes into Danish Crown’s production is produced responsibly, said Forests of the World Campaign Director Gry Bossen. “As long as it does not know where the soy in its supply chain comes from, it cannot avoid being complicit in deforestation and violation of indigenous peoples' rights in South America. Danish Crown should clearly ensure that its demands and value chains from South America are deforestation-free."

“While other protein producers in the Norwegian salmon industry recognize that their responsibility goes beyond certified soy volumes for their own production, and demand that their suppliers commit to becoming deforestation-free in all operations, it is disappointing that a Danish meat giant like Danish Crown is setting the bar this low. They should prepare themselves for the future market and give their customers products without any links to deforestation. Certified soy volumes cannot guarantee that” says Ida Breckan Claudi, RFN.

“Danish Crown must be held responsible for the environmental destruction associated with its entire supply chain and partnerships with suppliers like Cargill..” said Mighty Earth Deputy Director Kristin Urquiza. “It is not enough for Danish Crown to pledge a commitment to sustainability. We need to see the company’s sustainability policies aggressively implemented on the ground. Consumers do not want to eat pork products linked to forest fires, tropical deforestation, and human rights abuses.”

90 percent of Danish pork products are exported to countries around the globe. Danish Crown is one of the largest exporters of pigs in the world and one of Europe's largest pork producers, slaughtering millions of pigs every year. Through a number of subsidiaries, including Tulip Ltd., Danish Crown markets its products in over 130 countries.

“Danish Crown cannot tell us the origin of the soy that goes into their pork products or where the soy that it sources comes from. As Danish Crown does not know the origin of its soy, the company cannot guarantee that its meat production is deforestation-free. It is crucial that Danish Crown ensures total traceability of soy, in order to guarantee that it is deforestation-free,” says Gry Bossen from Forests of the World.

For further information, please contact:

Ida Breckan Claudi, Regnskovsfonden, (+47) 47417174, [email protected]

Jonas Schmidt Hansen, Forests of the World: (+45) 26 25 82 08, [email protected]

Liviya James, Mighty Earth, (+1) 949.246.9808, [email protected]

‘World’s largest farmer’ faces investigation into deforestation

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Olam cleared rainforests over half the size of Singapore

The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), a global certification body on responsible forest management, has just initiated an investigation into the deforestation liabilities of the world’s largest farmer, Olam International,  which trades in 47 agricultural commodities across 70 countries.

The FSC investigation will assess Mighty Earth’s complaint filed with the FSC in December 2016, which provides damning evidence that Olam cleared vast areas of rainforest for oil palm and rubber plantation development in Gabon and, as a result, violated the FSC Policy of Association. The complaint was filed based on evidence presented in the report “Black Box,” co-authored by Mighty Earth and Gabonese Goldman Award winner Marc Ona Essangui’s organization Brainforest.

In Olam’s response, the company admitted that the company had cleared 25,735 hectares of rainforest while establishing its oil palm plantations in Gabon: “58% (25,735 ha) of the planted area was originally highly logged and degraded secondary forest.” Such levels of deforestation violate the FSC Policy for Association, which was established to ensure that no company should benefit from the FSC’s eco-forestry certification if it engages in activities that have devastating impacts on ecosystems, biodiversity, and the rights of forest peoples.

In February 2017, following negotiations between Mighty Earth and Olam, mediated by the World Resources Institute, the company agreed to suspend further land clearing of rainforests in Gabon for palm and rubber plantations for a year, Olam also overhauled its palm oil policy, its global policy on how the company treats workers, and its company-wide global policy on protecting forests for all its agricultural commodities. As a result, Mighty Earth agreed to suspend its campaign targeting Olam’s oil palm and rubber operations, including its FSC complaint, for one year. In January 2018, Mighty Earth renewed these agreements in order to continue engaging on issues of mutual interest and resolving issues through a process of dialogue.

However, the issues relating to deforestation liabilities in Gabon were not addressed in 2017 or 2018. The FSC, Mighty Earth and Olam have now jointly agreed on a voluntary alternative resolution process to address the issues highlighted in the complaint. The FSC has now commissioned an FSC-accredited assessor (SmartCert) to conduct the investigation, which will be paid for by Olam.

“While it’s wonderful that Olam stopped clearing rainforest for its palm and rubber plantations, the company still needs to be held accountable for its past rainforest destruction,” said Etelle Higonnet, Mighty Earth Senior Campaign Director. “No company should get away with breaking the FSC rules on deforestation, which are there for a crucial reason: to protect rainforests, which help shield humanity from climate chaos.”

The initial investigation will only focus on Olam’s oil palm plantations, at Olam’s request. A second FSC investigation will cover deforestation for Olam rubber plantations in Gabon. Mighty Earth estimates that Olam cleared around 11,000 hectares of rainforest between 2012-2016 for its rubber plantations in northern Gabon. This was documented by Brainforest’s undercover videos, available online.

“The bottom line is that Olam cleared nearly 40,000 hectares of Gabonese rainforest to make way for vast oil palm and rubber plantations in Gabon,” said Higonnet. “This undoubtedly violated FSC standards. In the past, the FSC has disassociated companies with such high levels of deforestation. However, the FSC is hoping that this alternative complaint process will lead to Olam compensating for its deforestation liabilities, without the need to disassociate the company. We’re are hoping for the best and will be following this process closely to ensure justice is done.”


Image Credit: Lyg 2001 / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)

Big Meat Companies Are Making the Pandemic Worse

As the coronavirus pandemic wreaks havoc with the meat supply chain, Mighty Earth CEO Glenn Hurowitz released the following statement:

"In the midst of a global crisis, the meat industry continues to pack people and animals into factories, fueling the spread of the current pandemic and making the next one more likely. The industry’s dangerous behavior and poor planning have led to the slow suffocation of millions of animals, even as unsafe working conditions force workers to risk sickness and death to keep their jobs.

"The industry’s destruction is also playing out on an international scale. The big meat companies like JBS and Cargill have driven the bulldozing and burning of the Amazon and other forests in South America to expand the area dedicated to raising cattle and planting crops to feed them. In addition to driving mass extinctions and accelerating climate change, this deforestation risks bringing humans into contact with dangerous new diseases. These tropical forest fires also overload health care facilities with new cases of respiratory problems and cause hundreds of thousands of premature deaths under normal circumstances. Allowing these practices to continue only further endangers people whose lungs have been damaged by the coronavirus.

"Supermarkets like Costco, Ahold Delhaize, Casino, and more must end their complicity and stop sending hundreds of millions of dollars in supplier contracts to companies like Cargill and JBS that are acting in such a cruel and reckless manner."

G20 Must Protect People and Planet During Coronavirus Pandemic

Mighty Earth signed on to a landmark Open Letter, coordinated by the Club of Rome secretariat and the Minister for the Environment of Costa Rica, calling on G20 leaders to ensure the current coronavirus global crisis spurs countries to champion recovery solutions that not only rebuild lives and spur economic activity in the immediate wake of the crisis, but also "accelerate the transition to resilient, low-carbon economies and nature-rich societies."

The Club of Rome is a high-level global hub of academics, politicians and environmental leaders who are setting the global climate emergency agenda and are a key driver behind World Earth Day.

We're happy to report on the wonderful impact of the Open Letter that our CEO Glenn Hurowitz co-signed along with thousands of thought leaders, scientists, and world leaders, to urge the G20 for a green and just recovery from the coronavirus crisis. The letter helped mobilize major pressure for the G20 to explicitly commit to an environmentally sustainable and inclusive recovery for our citizens and planet. We are happy that we were able to do our small part in this big collective achievement – a testament to the solidarity of civil society.

One result of this letter was a marked improvement in the response of the G20. See here the final G20 Communiqué and Annexes from the G20 Finance Ministers meeting which took place virtually from Riyadh in Saudi Arabia on 15 April. Whilst this G20 commitment could be better, with stronger language in the core text, nonetheless the final agreed language is significantly more robust than the G20 Leaders Declaration adopted last month. Moreover, it is crucial to take into account that has come from Finance Ministers, and was endorsed by all G20 countries, including the USA, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, Germany and South Africa, among many others.

Most crucially, the G20 stated:

  • We reiterate our commitment to use all available policy tools to safeguard against downside risks, ensure a swift recovery and achieve strong, sustainable, balanced and inclusive growth
  • We commit to support an environmentally sustainable and inclusive recovery. We will be guided by a sense of shared, long-term responsibility for our planet and citizens

Mighty Earth hopes that this G20 Communiqué will shape upcoming coronavirus recovery related EU Council meetings, as well as the G20 meetings in July and in November at Heads of States level.

Coronavirus is presenting our societies with tremendous challenges and suffering. The response to this pandemic can deepen suffering by exacerbating climate chaos and high-carbon harm with coronavirus profiteering, or it can help nations and industries fight two battles at once: coronavirus and climate change. With global stimulus packages topping a staggering $14 trillion, we are on the cusp of major decisions that will shape nations, economies and the biosphere for decades to come. Let us be our best selves in this critical hour of need.