Alex Armstrong

Deputy Director


Deputy Director

Mighty Earth is accepting applications to join our team as a Deputy Director, a critical leadership role in our mission to secure a living planet. As the Deputy Director, you will drive organizational development, managing senior staff, driving the strategic direction of our campaigns, and serving as a critical bridge between programmatic and operational work. You will play an important role in ensuring that our work achieves the outsized impact we seek, including by advancing our commitment to Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice.

As the Deputy Director, you will oversee a team of program leads who are driving initiatives such as our campaign to protect the Amazon rainforest and other climate-critical ecosystems, transform agriculture, decarbonize key industries in ways that advance the rights and livelihoods of Indigenous and local communities, and support a just economic transition.

Who we are: 

Mighty Earth is a global advocacy organization working to defend a living planet. Our goal is to protect half of Earth for Nature and secure a climate that allows life to flourish.

We have played a leading role in persuading the world’s largest food and agriculture companies to adopt policies to eliminate deforestation, land-grabbing, slave and child labor, and other human rights abuse from the palm oil, chocolate, and rubber industries, and driven adoption of multi-billion-dollar shifts to clean energy. We are working to drive similar transformation in the meat industry, the largest agricultural driver of rainforest destruction and climate pollution. Through our campaigns, we seek to make significant progress to support impacted people around the world, especially Indigenous communities, communities of color and low-income communities.

Mighty Earth’s approach, team and the results of our work have been featured in Inside Philanthropy, Bloomberg, The New Republic, New York Times Magazine, The New York Times,  and many other outlets.

As Mighty Earth’s Deputy Director, your responsibilities will include:

Organizational Leadership and Management

  • Managing an international team providing day-to-day management of senior staff and consultants as well as support for longer-term leadership and development and effective campaign progress;
  • Developing and implementing structures and processes that facilitate organization-wide information-sharing, communication, and transparency in decision making;
  • Working closely with our Senior Director of Finance and Compliance to ensure that internal structures and processes align with best practices in nonprofit management;
  • Work closely with the organization’s leadership to continue to build a culture that is driven, fun, supportive, collaborative, and committed to our values of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice (DEIJ).

Campaign Strategy

  • Guiding Mighty Earth’s campaigns major planning decisions, communications opportunities, and advocacy, bringing in the President & CEO for strategic involvement as needed;
  • Coordinating Mighty Earth’s digital campaigning, communications, and research to advance programmatic and organizational strategy and goals;
  • Serving as the organization’s bridge between programmatic priorities and operational implementation, ensuring the two are aligned.

Additional responsibilities include:

  • Serving as a representative and spokesperson for Mighty Earth in meetings with strategic partners, corporate targets, and/or philanthropic supporters as needed;
  • Supporting organizational, strategic, and project planning;
  • Working with Senior Director of People and Culture, develop and oversee a process for ensuring DEIJ principles are integrated into Mighty Earth’s day-to-day work and long term strategy;
  • Supporting the President & CEO in Board-level planning;
  • Supporting the CEO and playing a role in fundraising and development as needed.

Who you are:

Required qualifications:

  • You have at least 10 years of experience, with a successful background in nonprofit leadership and management.
  • You have experience recruiting, training, and managing staff and facilitating across teams and initiatives, including programs, operations, communications, as well as DEIJ values.
  • You have a commitment to protecting the environment and advancing a more just society.
  • You have a commitment to and experience working with people from a variety of backgrounds, including underserved communities such as communities of color, low-income communities, members of the LGBTQ+ community, various religious backgrounds, and more.
  • You have some experience in an issue advocacy campaigning or grassroots organizing setting.
  • You are comfortable operating in a dynamic setting where changes in external factors like politics and economics, and there can be a need to pivot quickly.
  • You are comfortable working with various internal and external stakeholders and can network and work in coalitions across diverse constituencies. You are comfortable working with people from different cultures and backgrounds.
  • You have familiarity with developing and implementing campaign strategy and plans and figuring out how to move decision makers.
  • You are a strong writer and verbal communicator and can distill complicated information and make it more digestible content.
  • English fluency is required.

Preferred qualifications:

  • You have experience playing a role in implementing DEIJ initiatives.
  • Additional language skills, including Portuguese, Spanish, or Chinese a plus, but not essential.
  • You have experience in markets campaigning or influencing company executives.
  • Expertise in deforestation and agricultural issues is a plus, but not required. We are open to candidates with experience in other issue areas such as human rights, democracy, or racial justice is a plus.
  • You have a background in environmental justice.
  • Familiarity with and connections in Latin America, Africa, Southeast Asia, or Europe is a plus, but not required.

More about our team: Mighty Earth is made up of people from various backgrounds including people with background in non-profit organizations, election campaigns, government, the private sector, and legislative offices, at a range of experience levels. We pride ourselves on being a welcoming place for people of color, members of the LGBTQ+ community, parents, empty-nesters, and more.

Details: This is a full-time position with a preference for candidates based in Washington, DC. We are open to candidates based in other U.S. locations, with a preference for eastern time zone locations. The position involves international travel. During the coronavirus pandemic, our staff just recently resumed travel in a more limited capacity. You will report to our CEO and work closely with our Senior Director of People and Culture, Senior Director of Finance and Compliance, and our Strategic Advisor.

To apply: Please submit your application as soon as possible. Please click on the apply button below and include a thoughtful cover letter that speaks to our mission and demonstrates your writing abilities and also let us know where you heard about the job. The position will remain posted until it is filled.

Interview process: Our interview process involves a phone interview, two video interviews, a candidate exercise, and reference calls for candidates advancing in our process. We have adjusted our interview process and are holding video interviews in place of in-person interviews during the pandemic.

Compensation and benefits: The hiring salary range for this position is $128K – $150K, depending on experience. We have a generous benefits package including group health insurance, dental benefits, unlimited vacation time, paid holidays, and a 401(k) plan.

Mighty Earth is an equal opportunity employer; we strictly prohibit discrimination against any employee or applicant on the basis of race, creed, color, sex, religion, national origin, age, sexual orientation, disability, gender identity or expression and any other characteristic protected by law. Women, people of color, and members of the LGBTQ+ community are strongly encouraged to apply.

To apply: Please submit your application as soon as possible. Please visit click on the apply button in the job description. Please include a thoughtful cover letter which speaks to our mission and demonstrates your writing abilities and also let us know where you heard about the job. The position will remain posted until it is filled.

Hat Yai sustainable rubber workshop

Learning how to 'do' sustainable rubber

July 27, 2021

Read the Report

As part of Mighty Earth’s continuing efforts to advance sustainability within the natural rubber sector, we are thrilled to be co-publishing a new practical guide for rubber industry actors, entitled “Sustainable Natural Rubber: pathways, policies and partnerships”.

The guide is based on expressed demand from stakeholders following a workshop of the same title, held in Hat Yai, Thailand, in September 2019, which was co-hosted by Mighty Earth, Rainforest Allianceeinhorn ProductsEarthnet Foundation, and the Prince of Songkla University. This event brought together over one hundred rubber farmers, traders, processors, CSOs representatives, government officials, academics, and consumer brand companies to share knowledge and and potential solutions to environmental, social, and economic challenges in the industry.

Like the workshop itself, the guide is a collaborative piece, consisting of four distinct yet complementary perspectives on the proactive steps companies purchasing natural rubber can take to engage with their supply chain. These are just four potential ways out of a long list of courses of action a company may find themselves interested in pursuing. The ultimate goal of this guide is to encourage companies interested in establishing sustainability initiatives to expand their knowledge of potential paths, and further learn how they can best accomplish each route.

Mighty Earth and our partners hope that this resource will equip companies interested in sourcing sustainable natural rubber with additional tools and ideas for doing so.

Korindo, Perusahaan Kelapa Sawit dan Kayu dikeluarkan dari Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)

Korindo, Perusahaan Kelapa Sawit dan Kayu dikeluarkan dari Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)

15 Juli 2021 Jakarta, Indonesia — Dewan Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), organisasi sertifikasi kehutanan global terkemuka, telah menghentikan sertifikasi[1] dari Korindo Group, konglomerat kayu dan kelapa sawit Korea-Indonesia yang bereputasi buruk yang beroperasi di Papua dan Maluku Utara, Indonesia.

Keputusan tersebut merupakan tindak lanjut pengaduan oleh Mighty Earth pada tahun 2017, dan upaya berbagai organisasi di Indonesia, Korea, dan seluruh dunia untuk mengungkap pelanggaran yang dilakukan oleh perusahaan. “Pengeluaran paksaan yang dilakukan FSC terhadap Korindo, memberikan lebih banyak bukti, bahwa terlepas dari klaim besar-besaran Korindo terhadap kelestarian, ternyata perusahaan masih belum dapat menunjukkan bukti telah memenuhi standar dasar sebagai bisnis yang bertanggung jawab terhadap lingkungan di abad ke-21,” kata Advokat Mighty Earth, Annisa Rahmawati. “Keputusan FSC harus menjadi peringatan bagi perusahaan mana pun yang berpikir bahwa mereka dapat menggunakan Greenwashing dan intimidasi hukum untuk menghancurkan hutan dan menginjak-injak hak-hak masyarakat adat dengan impunitas..”

Panel pengaduan FSC menemukan[2] bahwa Korindo telah menghancurkan lebih dari 30.000 hektar hutan hujan[3] (setara dengan 42.000 lapangan sepak bola) dalam lima tahun terakhir dan melakukan pelanggaran terhadap hak tradisional dan hak asasi masyarakat adat, yang bertentangan dengan standar FSC. Hutan Papua merupakan hutan hujan asli terbesar di Indonesia, dan salah satu lanskap terpenting bagi iklim dunia. Namun demikian, FSC telah mempertahankan ‘asosiasi bersyarat[4]’ dengan Korindo, yang mengharuskan Korindo untuk melakukan langkah-langkah perbaikan. Sekretaris Jendral FSC pada hari ini mengumumkan[5] penghentian asosiasi karena kegagalan Korindo untuk menyetujui prosedur verifikasi  kepatuhannya secara independen.

"Kami tidak dapat memverifikasi peningkatan kinerja sosial dan lingkungan Korindo," Kim Carstensen, Direktur Jenderal Internasional FSC, dikutip dalam artikel BBC[6] tentang pengeluaran paksaannya. Menanggapi keputusan tersebut, Korindo menyatakan akan mencoba untuk mendapatkan kembali sertifikasi tersebut.

“Meskipun FSC menemukan bahwa Korindo telah melanggar kebijakannya karena melakukan deforestasi besar-besaran dan penyalahgunaan hak-hak masyarakat adat, Korindo terus menyebarkankan informasi palsu tentang usaha keras mereka dan terus menggunakan hubungan kelanjutan asosiasinya dengan FSC untuk mengelabui praktik buruknya,” kata Annisa Rahmawati. “Dengan pengumuman hari ini, Korindo tidak bisa lagi bersembunyi di balik FSC."

Selain gagal memenuhi kewajibannya kepada FSC, Korindo telah berusaha untuk membungkam kritik terhadapnya dengan mengajukan gugatan SLAPP di Jerman terhadap organisasi masyarakat sipil yang telah mengungkap pelanggarannya dan menyerukan perbaikan. Akibatnya, juri dari anggota parlemen Eropa terkemuka dan LSM ahli, didukung oleh Coalition Against SLAPPs in Europe (CASE), memberikan penghargaan[7] pada Korindo Group gelar yang memalukan sebagai International Bully of the Year.

“Korindo jelas tidak memiliki itikad baik. Jika Korindo serius  meningkatkan kinerja lingkungan dan hak asasi manusia untuk mengatasi pelanggarannya terhadap standar FSC, mereka perlu memulihkan habitat hutan yang dihancurkannya, membayar ganti rugi kepada masyarakat adat Papua yang terkena dampak dan menghentikan pelecehan hukum terhadap kelompok masyarakat sipil yang telah mencoba melawan pelanggarannya,” kata Hye Lyn Kim, Juru Kampanye Federasi Korea untuk Gerakan Lingkungan.

Foto dan video berkualitas tinggi dari investigasi Mighty Earth te Korindo tersedia untuk diunduh disini[8].

Untuk informasi lebih lanjut, hubungi:

Annisa Rahmawati

[email protected]

Ayunda Putri
[email protected]




[4] Korindo Group | Forest Stewardship Council (





Notorious palm oil and timber company Korindo expelled by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)

Baca dalam Bahasa Indonesia

Jakarta, Indonesia — The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), a leading global forestry certification organization, announced that it has decided to terminate the certification of Korindo Group, a notorious Korean-Indonesian logging and palm oil conglomerate operating in Papua and North Maluku, Indonesia.

The decision follows a 2017 Mighty Earth complaint, and efforts by multiple organizations across Indonesia, Korea, and the world to expose the company’s wrongdoing.

“The FSC’s expulsion of Korindo provides more evidence that despite all its grandiose claims that it is embracing sustainability, the company still cannot rouse itself to meet basic standards for environmentally responsible business in the 21st Century,” said Mighty Earth advocate Annisa Rahmawati. “The FSC's decision should serve as a warning to any company that thinks they can use greenwashing and legal intimidation to destroy forests and trample on Indigenous communities’ rights with impunity.”

The FSC Complaints Panel found Korindo had destroyed more than 30,000 hectares of rainforest (equivalent to 42,000 football fields) in the previous five years and committed violations of Indigenous peoples’ traditional and human rights, in contravention of FSC standards.  Papua is the largest intact rainforest in Indonesia, and one of the most important landscapes for the climate in the world.

Nevertheless, the FSC had retained a ‘conditional association’ of Korindo, requiring Korindo to enact improvement and remediation measures.  The FSC’s Secretary General  announced today it was terminating the association based on Korindo’s failure to agree to procedures to independently verify its compliance. In a statement about the decision, Korindo said it would try to regain certification.

“Although the FSC found that Korindo had violated its policy through vast deforestation and abuse of Indigenous people’s rights, Korindo has continued to spread false information about the severity of its actions and has used its continued association with FSC to greenwash its bad practices,” Rahmawati said. “With today’s announcement, Korindo can’t hide behind the FSC anymore."

In addition to failing to meet its obligations to FSC, Korindo has sought to silence its critics by filing a SLAPP lawsuit in Germany against civil society organizations who have worked to expose its wrongdoing and call for remedy.   As a result, a jury of distinguished European parliamentarians and expert NGOs – empanelled by the Coalition Against SLAPPs in Europe (CASE) – awarded the Korindo Group the dubious title of International Bully of the Year.

“Korindo is clearly not acting in good faith.  If Korindo is serious about improving its environmental and human rights performance to address its violations of FSC’s standards, it needs to restore the forest habitat it destroyed, pay restitution to affected Papuan Indigenous communities and stop its legal harassment of civil society groups who have tried to stand up to its abuses,” said Hye Lyn Kim, a Campaigner with the Korea Federation for Environmental Movements.

High quality photos and video of Mighty Earth’s investigation into Korindo communities are available for download here.

7 EU NGOs Call on the EU Commission to include leather as a key forest-risk commodity in new deforestation law.

Cattle ranching is the largest driver of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon - while most of the beef is produced for domestic consumption, nearly 80% of the leather is exported, mainly to the EU.

Hence, today 7 NGOs write to EU Commissioners, Frans Timmermans, and Virginijus Sinkevičius urging them to ensure that leather is also considered as a key forest-risk commodity in the upcoming EU law to halt #deforestation, so that its imports are regulated!

Download the letter

Dear Vice President Timmermans, dear Commissioner Sinkevičius,

Re: Ensuring that the EU is not driving deforestation through the unregulated import of forest leather

We are writing to urge you to ensure that leather is kept as a key forest-risk commodity in the upcoming EU law to halt deforestation and forest degradation. Cattle is the number one driver of deforestation of the world’s tropical forests, and leather is intrinsically linked to this production.

The Amazon is currently bracing for what experts warn may be one of the most dramatic fire seasons for decades, after a year of record-breaking deforestation.1 Cattle ranching is the largest driver of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon2 and while most of the meat is produced for domestic consumption, nearly 80 percent of the leather is exported.3 This represents both opportunities and responsibilities for importing countries to influence the cattle ranching trade so that it becomes more sustainable and free from deforestation.

While parts of the leather industry and big brands using leather claim that it is an insignificant by- product of meat production, it is in fact a global multibillion dollar industry. The value of the Brazilian leather industry alone is estimated at over US$50 billion. Many meatpackers operate on low profit margins, and non-meat products, of which leather is a key component, can make up to 26% of large meatpackers’ incomes.4 Leather sales can therefore determine whether or not they turn a profit or a loss, and if hides cannot be sold, there will be a disposal cost. The largest meatpackers, such as JBS, also have vertical business structures, refining the leather in their own tanneries and thus increasing the value of the production and sales of leather.

The EU is a key market for leather, especially from South America. Brazilian leather is essential to the Italian tanning industry, which sees €5.2 billion in annual turnover, and accounts for 20% of the total tanning industry turnover worldwide.5 In 2021, Italy replaced China as the largest export market for Brazilian leather,6 and over 36% of all wet-blue (chrome-tanned) hides imported to Italy came from Brazil, followed by just 14% from the United States.7 Most of the wet-blue hides exported from Brazil come with a high deforestation risk, since specialised wet-blue tanneries account for six of the top ten exporting Brazilian tanneries located in the Amazon basin.8

The value of leather imports exceeds that of other forest-risk commodities imported to the EU, such as cocoa, soy, beef and palm oil. 9 Additionally, imported leather carries a greater forest-risk than these other commodities. More than 10% of raw or tanned hides imported to the EU come from the forest-risk countries of Brazil and Paraguay, with a value of US$158 million.

However, even these numbers hide the true extent of the impact of forest-risk leather on the EU market. While China is also a top market for Brazilian leather, much of it is re-exported to the EU as finished leather products, including shoes, bags, and clothes. In 2019, 13% of China’s leather imports were from Brazil and Paraguay. It can then be estimated that 13% of the $2.3 billion of leather goods entering the EU from China in that year, with a value of $279 million, also originated from a forest-risk country.10 This fact should be taken into account when designing a risk benchmarking system.

Almost half of the leather exported from Brazil is consumed by the car industry. This includes major European car producers, and EU imports of cars produced in non-EU countries. All of the top five European car manufacturers (Volkswagen Group; BMW Group; Daimler; PSA Groupe and Groupe Renault), source leather from clients of Brazilian companies linked to large-scale deforestation. Between 2019 and 2020 those companies were exposed to at least 1.1 million hectares of recent deforestation through JBS Couros, the leather branch of one of the largest meatpackers in Brazil.11

As public knowledge of the connections between leather and deforestation risk rises, sourcing leather from South American producers becomes more of a public relations challenge for European producers. Therefore, including leather in the legislation will not disadvantage the European leather industry, it will catalyse them into taking the steps they need to take anyway.

The leather industry is already primed for a shift in this direction. VF Corporation, the company that owns Vans, Timberland, The North Face, and other brands, have started boycotting Brazilian leather, following the 2019 Amazon fires.12 Customers in the automotive, fashion and furniture industries are increasingly seeking low cost, synthetic alternatives, or looking for environmentally friendly bio alternatives. If the Italian leather industry were to demonstrate its commitment to zero-deforestation sourcing practices, this could provide a competitive advantage to combat the falling value of leather.

Initiatives and commitments to become deforestation free are emerging from the sector, and traceability is a low cost solution that is already in place in key stages of the supply chains. To a large extent it is a question of adopting available policies and tools. It is important that the EU, one of the world’s largest markets, not only supports and strengthens these efforts, but accepts its responsibility for not importing deforestation leather to the EU.

Leather from the Amazon continues to carry a high deforestation risk, and yet a large percentage of this leather is imported to the EU. If the EU legislation on forest commodities were to include leather as a priority product, it would therefore drastically reduce the extent to which the EU market drives deforestation. It will also support growing initiatives to protect critically endangered tropical forest biomes, at a time when world leaders are coming together to mitigate climate change and preserve biodiversity and ecosystems.

On behalf of the signatories

Nils Hermann Ranum
Head - Drivers of deforestation team Rainforest Foundation Norway

2 Walker, N. F., Patel, S. A., & Kalif, K. A. (2013). From Amazon pasture to the high street: deforestation and the Brazilian cattle product supply chain. Tropical Conservation Science, 6(3), 446-467.
3 Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE). Animal Slaughter Quarterly Survey. pesquisas-trimestrais-do-abate-de-animais.html?=&t=series-historicas
and Brazilian Beef Exporters Association (ABIEC).
4 Libera, C. Mirote, S & Horta, A. (2020). Brazil’s Path to Sustainable Cattle Farming.
5 Mammadova, A., Masiero, M., & Pettenella, D. (2020). Embedded Deforestation: The Case Study of the Brazilian–Italian Bovine Leather Trade. Forests, 11(4), 472.
6 CICB 2021.
7 UN Comtrade,
8 Rainforest Foundation Norway. (2021). Driving deforestation: The European automotive industry’s contribution to deforestation in Brazil.
9 UN Comtrade,

Importations de cacao des États-Unis : Les grands négociants agissant dans l’ombre se taillent la part du lion.

Mighty Earth et Stand.Earth ont entrepris collectivement des recherches préliminaires sur la chaîne d'approvisionnement du cacao, afin de mieux comprendre comment le cacao pénètre le plus grand marché du chocolat au monde, les États-Unis. Bien que les résultats confirment une grande partie de ce qui était déjà su, certaines nouvelles révélations sont stupéfiantes. Nos résultats sont accablants pour quelques négociants dominants, ils dévoilent le secret dans les importations de cacao/chocolat, un réseau international de blanchiment opaque de cacao et une dissimulation de bénéfices exorbitants pour les entreprises faits au détriment des pays producteurs pauvres.

Ces résultats sont issus de l'analyse des données de suivi des navires et des manifestes des navires américains, de janvier à octobre 2020, en utilisant divers algorithmes pour consolider les données. Nous nous sommes concentrés sur les importations américaines de cacao en provenance de quatre grands pays producteurs de cacao : Ghana, Côte d'Ivoire, Équateur et Pérou.

Les schémas d'exploitation des producteurs de cacao se poursuivent : Nos recherches révèlent à quel point les pays producteurs de cacao perdent des revenus substantiels en n'exportant pas directement vers les consommateurs, et en exportant des matières premières plutôt que des produits transformés à base de cacao. Cette situation est due aux modèles postcoloniaux d'exploitation du Sud par des sociétés occidentales prédatrices, aux accords commerciaux injustes dictés par les anciennes puissances coloniales et à l'échec de la gouvernance, de l'engagement et du développement des gouvernements producteurs de cacao. De gros volumes de fèves de cacao ivoiriennes et ghanéennes sont vendus aux États-Unis via la Belgique et l'Espagne, ce qui signifie que les revenus et les bénéfices qui pourraient aller aux agriculteurs sont détournés au profit de négociants étrangers.

Cette situation s'étend également à la propriété de la capacité de broyage. La capacité de broyage de la Côte d'Ivoire est considérablement importante - 16 % en 2019 - mais une grande partie de cette capacité est détenue par des sociétés étrangères. Bien que le broyage des fèves de cacao apporte plus de valeur au pays, la fuite des capitaux draine la plupart de ces revenus hors du pays. Le Ghana vend principalement des fèves de cacao mais, comparativement, il tire davantage profit de ce commerce en raison de son marché moins libéralisé où l'action des régulateurs réduit les chocs négatifs du marché.

L'UE exporte du cacao vers les États-Unis : 43 % des fèves de cacao du Ghana et de la Côte d'Ivoire passent par l'Europe - en particulier par l'Espagne et la Belgique - et sont souvent réexportées sans aucune valeur ajoutée. Cela indique que toute décision de l'UE sur la durabilité du cacao aura un impact massif sur la politique commerciale américaine en matière de cacao, et vice versa.

Autres pays de blanchiment du cacao - Panama et Colombie : De grandes quantités de cacao péruvien et équatorien transitent par le Panama et la Colombie vers les États-Unis. Pourtant, le Panama n'a jamais pris d'engagements en matière de cacao durable, n'a pas d'objectifs de traçabilité ou de transparence pour le cacao, et n'est pas encore scruté de manière appropriée en tant qu'acteur majeur du cacao. La durabilité de l'industrie cacaoyère panaméenne doit être réexaminée, et une "Initiative cacao et forêts" (CFI) pour le Panama serait un bon début. La Colombie a déjà pris des mesures avec sa propre "Initiative Cacao, Forêts et Paix" pour réformer son secteur. Nos recherches aboutissent à une conclusion claire : cette initiative devrait désormais couvrir tout le cacao qui transite par la Colombie, et pas seulement celui que les Colombiens cultivent.

L'ironie de la traçabilité : La traçabilité permet de faire la lumière sur l'origine du cacao afin de résoudre les problèmes au niveau des exploitations, mais elle doit également montrer où vont les produits du cacao. Outre le flou qui entoure la traçabilité et la problématique du cacao réexporté d'Europe, il existe des omissions généralisées et des erreurs érigées en normes dans les données d'importation américaines. Ce qui devrait figurer dans les données des manifestes de navires est souvent absent ou difficile à retracer, car les informations relatives à l'expéditeur et au destinataire sont supprimées. Nos recherches montrent un tel schéma et une telle pratique de l'obscurcissement que nous devons maintenant nous demander : "Que cachent les importateurs ?" En 2020, 40 millions de kilos de produits chocolatés non traçables sont entrés aux États-Unis. Le gouvernement américain doit réviser ses systèmes de contrôle pour s'assurer que le cacao devient traçable jusqu'aux entreprises impliquées dans la transaction réelle, et pas seulement jusqu'aux sociétés de transit. Cela signifie que les données américaines sur les importations et les exportations doivent s'améliorer considérablement et que les entreprises de chocolat devraient être obligées par les autorités américaines de divulguer l'ensemble de leurs chaînes d'approvisionnement mondiales aux deux extrémités, et pas seulement leurs fournisseurs.

L'UE est très en retard en matière de traçabilité du côté des importateurs : Si les données des manifestes douaniers américains doivent être grandement améliorées, l'UE a également un long chemin à parcourir. Actuellement, les données s'arrêtent au niveau des ports de l'UE. En raison du manque de transparence des systèmes de données des manifestes douaniers de l'UE, la dissimulation des crimes est facilitée car il n'existe aucun moyen de retracer le cacao des pays producteurs aux transformateurs ou aux fabricants. Ce manque de transparence est inacceptable pour une grande zone de consommation de cacao comme l'Europe. L'UE doit de toute urgence réformer ses données douanières pour les aligner sur les meilleures pratiques en matière de transparence des marchandises. La France a ainsi récemment établi un nouveau modèle avec des réformes pour la transparence des données douanières. Le reste de l'UE devrait imiter ce modèle et le renforcer.

L'astuce de camouflage du négociant : Alors que les fèves sont vendues en grandes quantités par le biais de chaînes d'approvisionnement intégrées comme Olam et Cargill, le chocolat fini, lui, semble provenir d'une grande variété de fabricants vers ce qui semble être, à première vue, une grande variété de destinataires. Un examen plus attentif révèle toutefois qu'il s'agit souvent de différentes itérations du nom de la même entreprise. Par exemple, nous avons trouvé 35 versions du nom du plus grand négociant de cacao au monde, "Barry Callebaut", ce qui revient à répartir le volume entre plusieurs entreprises, de sorte que la taille réelle de ses monopoles ou la valeur de son commerce ne sont pas visibles. Après avoir examiné toutes les versions des noms, nos recherches montrent clairement comment les plus grands négociants en cacao - Barry Callebaut, Olam, ECOM, Sucden et Cargill - mènent la danse. Nous avons même réussi à percer le brouillard pour montrer qu'ECOM est le plus grand négociant de fèves de cacao aux États-Unis, bien qu'il se cache entre autres sous le nom d'Atlantic Specialty Coffee. Si Barry Callebaut, Cargill, Olam, Sucden, ECOM et d'autres sociétés de négoce de cacao prennent au sérieux la traçabilité, ils devraient résoudre immédiatement ce problème de nomenclature, avec ou sans action réglementaire américaine. Le plus grand broyeur américain, Blommer, est totalement absent à la fin de la chaine et ne fournit que peu ou pas de données sur son site web pour garantir la traçabilité. Si ces compagnies n'ont rien à cacher, elles devraient explicitement publier leurs noms sur toutes leurs transactions. Il est grand temps de mettre fin au jeu de cache- cache.

Où allons-nous ? Nos recherches soulignent que l'administration Biden doit agir de manière décisive pour faire progresser la durabilité du cacao et créer de la synergie entre les divers organismes gouvernementaux dont l'engagement est chaotique, cloisonné et disparate. Les États-Unis devraient également envisager sérieusement la création d'une "ISCO". Cette plateforme multipartite pourrait réunir les agences gouvernementales fédérales appropriées, les ONG, les fabricants de chocolat et les négociants en cacao afin de renforcer la traçabilité, la transparence et la durabilité de l'industrie cacaoyère. Sur le plan législatif, la réglementation visant à limiter la déforestation importée se fait attendre depuis longtemps pour le chocolat et d'autres produits de base. En outre, au-delà de l'adoption de la législation, les États-Unis doivent s'engager régulièrement avec les pays producteurs de cacao pour améliorer la gouvernance et renforcer la voix des agriculteurs et de la société civile locale dans les discussions sur le cacao.

U.S. Cocoa Imports: Secretive mega-traders get the lion’s share. 

Mighty Earth and Stand.Earth partnered together to undertake preliminary cocoa supply chain research to improve our understanding of how cocoa enters the U.S.—the biggest chocolate market in the world. Though the results confirm a lot we know already, some new revelations are stunning. Our findings uncovered a damning story of the action of a few dominant traders, the secrecy in cocoa/chocolate imports, an international web of opaque cocoa-laundering, and a cover-up of corporate value captured from poor producer countries.

These results are from the analysis of vessel tracking and American vessel manifest data from January to October 2020, using various algorithms to clarify the data. We focused on American imports of cocoa from four major cocoa-producing countries: Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, Ecuador, and Peru.

Patterns of exploiting cocoa farmers continue: Our research exposes the extent to which cocoa-producing countries are losing substantial revenue by not exporting directly to consumers, and by exporting raw materials rather than processed cocoa products. This is due to post-colonial models of exploitation of the Global South by predatory Western corporations, unfair trade deals dictated by former colonial powers, and a failure of governance, commitment, and development by cocoa-producing governments. Large volumes of Ivorian and Ghanaian cocoa beans are sold to the U.S. via Belgium and Spain, meaning that revenue and profits that could go to farmers are diverted to foreign traders instead.

This also extends to grinding capacity ownership. Cote d’Ivoire's grinding capacity is considerably large—16 percent in 2019—but much of its installed grinding capacity is owned by foreign companies. Although grinding cocoa beans brings more value to the country, capital flight drains most of this revenue from the country. Ghana mostly sells cocoa beans, but comparatively, gains more from the trade due to its less liberalized market where the regulators action reduces the negative market shocks.

The EU exports cocoa into the U.S.: 43 percent of cocoa beans from Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire pass through Europe—specifically Spain and Belgium—often re-exported without any value addition. This tells us that whatever the EU decides on cocoa sustainability will have a massive impact on American cocoa trade policy, and vice versa.

Other cocoa laundering countries - Panama and Columbia: Large amounts of Peruvian and Ecuadorian cocoa funnel through Panama and Colombia into the U.S. Yet Panama has never made any sustainable cocoa commitments, has no traceability or transparency goals for cocoa, and is not yet appropriately scrutinized as a major cocoa player. The sustainability of Panama's cocoa industry must be re-examined, and a “Cocoa & Forests Initiative” (CFI) for Panama would be a good start. Colombia has already taken steps with its own “Cocoa, Forests and Peace Initiative” to reform its sector. Our research points to one clear conclusion: this initiative should now cover all cocoa that passes through, not just what Colombians grow.

The irony of traceability: Traceability sheds light on where cocoa comes from to address problems at the farm level, but it also needs to show where cocoa products go. Besides the murkiness of traceability or re-exported cocoa from Europe, there are widespread omissions and normalized errors in American import data. What should be seen in vessel manifest data is often missing or difficult to trace, because shipper and consignee information is removed. Our research shows such a pattern and practice of obfuscation that we must now ask, "What are the importers hiding?" In 2020, 40 million kilos of untraceable chocolate products entered the U.S. The U.S. government must revise its systems to ensure that cocoa becomes traceable to the companies involved in the actual transaction, not just forwarding companies. This means that American data on imports and exports must dramatically improve, and chocolate companies should be obligated by the U.S. authorities to disclose their entire global supply chains at both ends, not just their suppliers.

The EU is far behind on importer-side traceability: While U.S. customs manifest data needs to greatly improve, the EU has a long way to go. Currently, the data ends at the EU ports. The EU’s opaque systems of customs manifest data facilitate concealment of crimes, thus there is no way to trace cocoa from producer countries to processors or manufacturers. This lack of transparency is unacceptable for a major cocoa consumer block like Europe. The EU must urgently reform its customs data to bring it in line with best practices on commodity transparency. France has recently set a new model with reforms for transparency around customs data, which the rest of the EU ought to emulate.

The trader's trick to hide: While beans get sold in vast bulk shipments through integrated supply chains like Olam and Cargill, finished chocolate goes from a wide variety of manufacturers to what seems at first glance to be a wide variety of consignees. A closer look reveals, however, that these are often different iterations of the company name. For instance, we found 35 versions of the name of the world’s largest cocoa trader called ‘Barry Callebaut’ — breaking up the volume across a variety of businesses so that the full size of its monopolies or value of its trade is hidden. After delving into all the versions of names, our research clearly shows how the biggest cocoa traders—Barry Callebaut, Olam, ECOM, Sucden, and Cargill—are running the show. We were even able to pierce through the fog to show how ECOM is the biggest trader of cocoa beans into the U.S., though it masquerades amongst other things behind the name Atlantic Specialty Coffee. If Barry Callebaut, Cargill, Olam, Sucden, ECOM, and other cocoa trading companies are serious about traceability, they should solve this data challenge of nomenclature immediately, with or without American regulatory action. America's largest grinder, Blommer, is conspicuously absent from the consignee space and delivers little or no data on its website to guarantee traceability. If they have nothing to hide, they should publish their names properly on all their transactions–no more games.

 Where do we go: Our research underscores how the Biden administration must act decisively to advance cocoa sustainability and bring together chaotic, siloed, and disparate engagement various government agencies. The U.S. should also seriously consider establishing an "ISCO." The multi-stakeholder platform could bring together the appropriate federal government agencies, NGOs, chocolate manufactures, and cocoa traders together to strengthen the cocoa industry's traceability, transparency, and sustainability. Legislatively, regulation to restrict imported deforestation is long overdue for chocolate and other commodities. And beyond passing legislation, the U.S. must regularly engage with cocoa-producing countries to improve governance and strengthen the voices of farmers and local civil society in cocoa discussions.

Lobby group representing Michelin, Goodyear and Continental pressures EU Commission to exclude rubber from deforestation law

A row has erupted between NGOs and the rubber industry following lobbying by the EU tyre and rubber industry association to the European Commission, pressing for natural rubber to be excluded from forthcoming new EU due diligence regulations designed to stamp out deforestation, ecosystem loss and human rights abuses in key global commodity supply chains.

Civil society organisations from Europe, Africa and the US are highly alarmed that rubber dropped out of the list of the Commission’s high forest-risk commodities and urged senior officials to keep rubber in the upcoming regulations. New research published by Greenpeace highlights the role of the industry in pushing for this change.

A key European Parliament resolution adopted in October 2020 had identified rubber as one of the main drivers of deforestation. More recently, on 25 February 2021, the Commission included rubber in a presentation detailing the preliminary list of key forest and ecosystem-risk co commodities covered under the draft EU Regulation.

However, the European Tyre & Rubber Manufactuers’ Association (ETRMA) – whose members  include powerful EU and global rubber and tyre makers such as Bridgestone, Continental, Goodyear, Michelin and Pirelli – issued public statements in late 2020 urging European Commission officials to drop rubber from its target list of key forest and ecosystem-risk commodities covered by the EU’s new mandatory due diligence Regulation.

The Greenpeace report shows how ETRMA further argued to the European Commission that rubber is now considered a “low-risk commodity” in relation to deforestation, [1] and instead said it supports a more focused approached to EU policy measures on deforestation and so supports the call for the EU to act on products ‘that have “the most proven impact.”’ [2] The ETRMA conclude that regulatory action to combat rubber-related deforestation instead should be done locally, in producing countries, or at the global level. [3]

The CSOs point out that ETRMA’s stance that rubber is a low forest-risk commodity runs counter to the widely accepted evidence. A major report for the European Commission in 2018 highlighted that an estimated three million hectares of forests were cleared to make way for rubber cultivation in the Mekong region of Southeast Asia since 2000. Environmental groups  such as Global Witness, Greenpeace and Mighty Earth have also documented harrowing evidence of widespread deforestation, illegal logging, human rights abuses, habitat loss, and biodiversity and livelihoods destruction linked to the expansion of rubber cultivation in numerous countries, such as Cambodia, LaosVietnam, CameroonIndonesia and Papua New Guinea.

In response to public indications from senior officials that the European Commission is about to heed ETRMA’s advice and drop rubber from its target list of key forest and ecosystem-risk commodities covered by its new regulation, a global coalition of CSOs have written an urgent open letter to European Commissioner for Environment Virginijus Sinkevičius, urging him to keep rubber in the EU’s deforestation law.

“It’s outrageous that ETRMA has aggressively lobbied the European Commission for rubber to be dropped from new EU regulations designed to stamp out rampant deforestation, ecosystem loss and human rights abuses in global supply chains,” said Dr Julian Oram, Campaign Director for Mighty Earth. “If the EU Commission bows to ETRMA’s lobbying pressure and shamefully drops rubber from its new deforestation law, then we’ll see more deforestation of rainforests, more destruction of ecosystems, and more violations of the rights of local and Indigenous communities.”

Mighty Earth approached ERTMA for comment but, at the time of publication, the lobby group had not responded.

The EU plays a key role in the global rubber supply chain: a quarter of global rubber production goes to the EU and five of the six largest global tyre and rubber corporations – Bridgestone, Continental, Goodyear, Michelin and Pirelli – have headquarters or key markets in the EU. With global demand for rubber products – which is predominantly for auto tires – projected to increase significantly post-pandemic, Governments and corporations need to adopt all the tools, laws and regulations at their disposal to help avert a destructive new wave of rubber-related deforestation in the coming years.


[1] In a supporting submission to the European Commission on 10 December 2020 in relation to an EU consultation question about which key commodities contribute to deforestation, the ETRMA said:

“Whilst ETRMA does not have any direct information on the impact of deforestation of the chosen conglomerate of commodities, there are several studies that were carried out by both EU Institutions (European Commission’s public consultation and European Parliament’s EPRS), international organisations (such as FAO) and NGOs (eg. WWF). All of these studies indicate that commodities such as cattle, soybeans and palm oil contribute to the bulk of deforestation (40% according to FAO). Furthermore, the summary report of the public consultation in the context of the Communication on stepping up EU action against deforestation shows that rubber is considered as a low-risk commodity.”

[2] See supporting submission ‘Deforestation and Forest Products Impact Assessment Consultation, Explanation supporting ETRMA’s responses to the questionnaire, 10 December 2020’, which says in relation to the range of products to be covered by the future EU policy measures:

“ETRMA supports the call to act on products that have “the most proven impact”, through specific measures designed to meet the specificities of each products’ value chain, on the condition that such impact is carefully studied in terms of recent and  current developments.” 

[3] In a supporting submission to the European Commission on 10 December 2020, the ETRMA argue against the wider need for EU due diligence regulation of rubber:

“The main issue with the approach taken in this consultation is that it looks for EU actions that should have an impact on countries on which the EU does not regulate and on which the EU has no control on. It is for this reason that the work should be done locally – in producing countries – or globally.”

Contact: Nico Muzi, Mighty Earth, [email protected] or + 32 (0) 484 27 87 91 (m)

Meet the Framework that helps give our deforestation campaigns bite

The Accountability Framework initiative (AFi) is a collaborative effort to build and scale up ethical supply chains for agricultural and forestry products. Led by a diverse global coalition of environmental and human rights organizations, the AFi works to create a “new normal” where commodity production and trade are fully protective of natural ecosystems and human rights. To pursue this goal, the coalition supports companies and other stakeholders in setting strong supply chain goals, taking effective action, and tracking progress to create clear accountability and incentivize rapid improvement.

Vice-President, Sarah Lake offers her personal reflections on the two-year anniversary of the Accountability Framework Initiative and its value in helping drive change. 

In 2014, at Global Forest Watch’s annual meeting, I watched as dozens of NGOs and leading agribusiness companies gathered in a single conference room to discuss private sector action on deforestation. Following a presentation on the state of corporate deforestation-free commitments (which, at the time, were few enough to fit on a single slide), we all discussed the needs of companies for setting robust commitments and acting on them.

But the ensuing discussion revealed the state of confusion and frustration by the companies. They asked: ‘What exactly do you want us to do?’ ‘Why are different NGOs asking us to do different things?’ ‘Can there be a clear guide from civil society on how companies should implement deforestation-free commitments?’

Companies wanted a clearer path forward to meet the mounting demands for sustainable production and sourcing.

“What if we created a framework; a set of expectations to guide companies in terms of action to address deforestation?” one participant from Rainforest Alliance said. And in that moment, the first seeds of the Accountability Framework were planted, as was the Accountability Framework initiative (AFi), the NGO-led coalition behind the Framework.

Now, the Framework is a foundation for forest and ecosystem protection and sustainable land use, utilized by dozens of companies to ensure their efforts are credible, robust and, most importantly, effective in advancing sustainable commodity production and trade, including human rights.

While my own career has moved from research and corporate engagement, to supply chain transparency tools, and now to advocacy, AFi has consistently proved to be an invaluable resource in all of my work. As a researcher at Global Forest Watch supporting company supply chain monitoring, I benefited from the initiative’s detailed guidance on monitoring and reporting. For the first time, widely agreed upon guidelines existed on what information was necessary, how frequently to collect it, and to what end companies should monitor their supply chains.

Later on, while I oversaw the Forest 500, AFi provided a forum to bring together the numerous initiatives that assessed, scored, and reported on company commitments and progress. With AFi’s intervention, the group was able to identify new areas of collaboration and opportunities to reduce the overlap of initiatives operating in a crowded space.

Most recently, when serving as the Global Director for Latin America at Mighty Earth, AFi proved essential to our campaigns targeting some of the world’s largest agribusinesses. By establishing clear expectations for companies across all thematic areas, the AFi emboldens our campaign efforts to ask for more ambitious private sector action. AFi has provided us with the dictionary for companies to understand the issues we aim to address, as well as the instruction manual for achieving supply chains that are deforestation- and conversion-free. Our campaigns build upon the common expectations of the Framework: that companies should adopt a cut-off date, and that companies should take action on non-compliant farms. With the credibility of the AFi behind our “asks” of companies, these asks are not only taken more seriously, but we are also in a better position to push for the next level of action required of companies.

It’s been two years since the Framework was launched. As the AFi continues to evolve, I look forward to seeing the Framework adapt to the new and pressing needs of commodity-driven deforestation, whether that be commodity-specific guidance, adapting the existing framework to help priority commodity sectors, or expanding to secure uptake by overlooked supply chain sectors.

You can find out more about the impact AFi has had in the two years since the Framework’s launch, here.

Towards Accountability?

While the world watched the devastation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and people globally sheltered in place, companies like Vietnamese rubber and agribusiness giant HAGL Agrico quietly took to destroying lands and forests in Cambodia belonging to Indigenous communities, disrupting ecosystems, and desecrating sacred places in order to use the land for unsustainable mono-cropped industrial agriculture.

One member of the Indigenous Ka Chork ethnic group in Ratanakiri, Cambodia, where most of the destruction took place, described the devastation caused by HAGL:

“The company's investment has affected the burial ground of our people, our farms, streams, ponds, grasslands for raising cattle, and so on. We lost our forest, we don’t have wood to build our houses, or places to look for non-timber forest products. Women in my village do not dare to walk into the forest because they are afraid of the [HAGL] company workers. This year, there was a case where a company worker raped a woman in a nearby village. 

“Currently, we can’t look for natural vegetables, fish, or crabs as before because the company uses chemical pesticides in the plantation which flow into the streams, so when our villagers walk down to the streams, we get rashes on our hands and feet. Since the company came in, our people have become poorer... and many have moved as they are afraid of the company clearing.”

Unfortunately, without strong action from their global business partners – in this case French auto giant Peugeot and other car makers - this story is and could become even more common in the rubber industry: a company with an unrecognizable brand decimates the environment and violates human rights, while their partners, buyers, and those profiting from their destruction can sit on the sidelines of an opaque value chain and wash their hands of any responsibility.

In short, there is a huge accountability gap.

However, one important step towards industry accountability happened this month. In June 2021, the Global Platform for Sustainable Natural Rubber (GPSNR) announced the implementation of a grievance mechanism. This mechanism will provide access to remedy for individuals or groups negatively impacted by members of the platform or GPSNR itself, and will guarantee accountability to membership requirements and principles. This is a huge step forward for the rubber industry as an open, predictable, and just system for processing complaints can help ensure that the over 100 members of GPSNR adhere to supply chain requirements that will protect communities and farmers and advance environmental sustainability.

This significant achievement comes as GPSNR recently celebrated the second anniversary of its founding in March 2019 and, to date, there have been several major accomplishments. These include the passage of a comprehensive set of sustainability and human rights-based policy requirements, the formal inclusion of smallholder representatives from rubber producing countries in the platform and on the Executive Committee, and now, the launch of the grievance mechanism.

While these are all important and signal strong movement forward by the industry, GPSNR has yet to overcome a few critical challenges. One of the biggest of these is a reluctance to move towards supply chain transparency and data sharing that would help identify and solve some of the major environmental and social issues associated with the production of natural rubber, and which make the need for a formal grievance mechanism so great.

To date, GPSNR has not meaningfully increased transparency in the natural rubber industry. While movement towards transparent reporting is a core principle of the Platform (as highlighted in the Founding Members statement), as of 2021, the London Zoological Society’s SPOTT assessment reported that, for example, just 14% of companies they reviewed provided comprehensive detail on how they are supporting smallholders and even fewer have reported clearly where their natural rubber is coming from. Without clear obligations for reporting or commitments to disclose information for public knowledge, it is much harder to identify problems on the ground - such as those experienced by the Indigenous communities in Ratanakiri - or take steps to solve them.

Perhaps companies will get there on their own, but in order to act with the requisite urgency, they will need to feel pressure to take responsibility for environmental degradation and human rights violations – whether by themselves directly, in their supply chains, or by their business partners. This is why GPSNR has high standards for all members of the platform and will need to quickly develop a system to ensure implementation of those expectations.

We believe the GPSNR grievance mechanism can help resolve some issues that arise after the fact, but the goal should be to understand and share enough about corporate supply chains and business practices that GPSNR can help ensure proactive compliance with membership requirements before complaints need to be filed.

For true accountability and to ensure that companies are not just riding the coattails of a platform with “sustainability” in its name, companies must commit to concrete actions that will increase public knowledge of the supply chain, the risks, and the bad actors that are enabling environmental destruction and human rights abuses. The grievance mechanism published this month puts an emphasis on transparency of process and outcome: ensuring that all stakeholders understand how far a complaint has made it through the mechanism, what the findings are, and what actions are being taken. This will allow all parties to have the same information and be able to understand the credit or consequences for actions that need to be taken to remain in good standing with GPSNR. Hopefully, this step will get the industry closer to embracing transparency and enable it to learn from existing concerns.

If we seek to really solve problems in the natural rubber supply chain, like the deforestation and human rights abuses we see in Cambodia and across the rubber-producing world, we need big ambition and a commitment to transparency and accountability.

Open Letter on Racial Injustice in the Cocoa Sector

To mark Juneteenth 2021, NGOs across the Global North and South published this open letter, calling on all of us to stamp out residual slavery within the chocolate industry and throughout our food production systems. To join us, sign on here...


Open letter about Racial Injustice in the Cocoa Sector Update

Future of orangutans in balance as company with Scottish roots searches for gold - Ian Redmond

Originally published in The Scotsman

GOLD… is the colour of an orangutan’s hair in the morning, as they rise, backlit by the sun in their treetop nests.  At that time of day, the rainforest canopy echoes to the haunting dawn chorus of gibbons and birdsong.   Sadly, all too frequently, that chorus is accompanied by the sound of chainsaws and heavy machinery.

Gold is also one more reason driving the destruction of orangutan habitat, or at least the human love of the precious metal found in deposits beneath the forest.  Controversially, some of that destruction on the Indonesian island of Sumatra is around a mine owned by a British company with Scottish origins, Jardine Matheson, and it adds to the pressure on the rarest species of orangutan.

Until recently, scientists recognised two species of Asia’s only great ape, each named after the island where they are found – the Bornean orangutan and the Sumatran orangutan.  Then in 2017, genetic and morphological studies of the most southerly population of orangutans in Sumatra revealed that – to everyone’s surprise – the orangutans of Batang Toru are a separate species, named after the surrounding district, Tapanuli.  Unsurprisingly, no sooner was it described by science, the species was assessed by the IUCN as ‘Critically Endangered’ with a population of fewer than 800 and put on the Red List.

As Chairman of the Ape Alliance, a loose coalition of 100 organisations working for the conservation and welfare of all apes, I took a strong interest in this discovery.  In 2019, as parts of London were brought to a standstill by Extinction Rebellion, I found myself sitting in the board room of Jardine’s being reassured by the company’s senior management, that there were no plans to expand the Martabe Gold Mine into the habitat of the Tapanuli orangutan.  Jardines, which has been controlled by the Keswick family since 19th century, had acquired the gold mine in 2018 through its Indonesian subsidiary Astra International.  The meeting had been arranged by Mighty Earth, an influential international organisation that tracks which companies are profiting from deforestation.

There are other threats to the Tapanuli: Indonesian civil society organizations have been working to halt the building of a hydro-electric dam that would flood a key corridor between two almost fragmented populations of Tapanuli orangutan.  The dam had been reported to be financed by the Bank of China, but in a series of meetings with the London and Jakarta branch managers we were assured that although a request for funding had been made to the Bank of China, the project was still under review.  To their credit, the Bank of China eventually decided not to fund the Batang Toru dam.   Work on the construction was further delayed by the global pandemic last year but not halted completely.

The risks of building a dam or a mine in an area prone to earthquakes were tragically highlighted by a landslide on 29th April this year, killing 13. A similar incident late last year killed one construction worker, and another was killed at the end of May, brining the total to fifteen lives lost.  The Indonesian Forestry and Environment Minister was reported to be evaluating the case for the dam, but construction continues.

Satellite images taken this year show that the Martabe mine is still expanding; about five hectares of forest were cleared between April and May.   This is on top of the 27.38 ha destroyed by the mining operation overall – 8.67 ha of which were destroyed since the purchase by Jardines in 2018.  Orangutans are threatened by loss of habitat to industrial agriculture– vast monoculture plantations of fast-growing trees for paper pulp as well as the more familiar palm-oil plantations.  Companies in the public eye such as Hershey, the US chocolate maker, are working to make their supply chains ‘deforestation-free.’  Last month, in response to a complaint by Mighty Earth, Hershey and others have called on Jardines to extend their ban on deforestation for palm oil across commodities—including gold.   Public pressure is a powerful force – we all have the power to influence the behaviour of corporations by the choices we make in our shopping.  But globally, deforestation continues.

Surely we can do better. This is the year the human world is supposed to agree on a new deal for nature.  The UN is hammering out a ‘post-2020 Biodiversity Framework’ to halt the loss of biodiversity and we are beginning the UN Decade of Ecosystem Restoration.   The UNFCCC CoP26 climate talks due to be held in Glasgow in November are concluding the details of carbon markets, including valuing the central role of tropical forests.  All signs of hope that our species is coming to its collective senses and learning to live within the finite bounds of our one planet.  And yet for some, it seems to be business as usual – despite the predictions based on the best available science that business as usual will lead to ecosystem collapse on a global scale.   Now is the time for the global economy to move from an extractive view of nature, where nature is seen as an ‘externality’ with a value of zero until mined or logged to a more regenerative view.  Like all life on earth, including orangutans, humans depend on the ecosystem services provided by natural processes and yet they do not appear in our balance sheets.  If we want fresh air to breathe, fresh water to drink and food to put on the table, we must begin to value nature as the foundation for our economy, not an externality.  That is the true gold!


Ian Redmond OBE is Chairman of the Ape Alliance, a trustee of the Orangutan Foundation and a co-founder of www.Rebalance.Earth

It's Juneteenth, but these American companies are still driving slavery

Juneteenth marks the date in 1865 where an estimated 250,000 enslaved people in Texas were freed, marking the official end of slavery in the Confederacy-- two years after the Emancipation Proclamation, and six months before the 13th Amendment to the Constitution finally banned slavery nationwide.

As much as Juneteenth is worthy of celebration, liberation is not complete. In our work, the most egregious and direct manifestation of that delayed justice is that American companies and institutions are continuing to drive slavery today at scale. The Emancipation Proclamation may have made it to Texas in 1865, but some companies are acting today as if it still doesn’t apply in their corporate suites. And on Wednesday, those companies got a free pass from the Supreme Court to continue the profit from slavery.  

There is probably no company that better symbolizes continued complicity with slavery than Cargill, America’s largest privately-held company and the world’s largest agribusiness.  Cargill isn’t a household name, but it’s bigger than even Koch industries, and sits astride much of America and the world’s food system. 

Cargill sells the chicken, beef, palm oil, corn, grain, cocoa and many other raw ingredients that’s found in much of what’s sold in supermarkets and restaurants. You may not know it, but you’re probably eating a Cargill product today. For instance, it’s actually Cargill that makes chicken McNuggets and Big Mac patties - and then just sends them to McDonald’s to be warmed up. The company has a terrible and well-documented record of driving destruction of forests, causing outsized climate pollution, and displacing Indigenous communities. 

While the company has many rotten elements, one of the worst is its role in the chocolate industry. Cargill’s agents go out into cocoa-growing regions in West Africa to purchase cocoa and finance expansion of cocoa operations, and then sell that cocoa to large chocolate companies like Nestle, Hershey’s and Mars.

The cocoa sector is notorious for its widespread use of child labor and other abuses-- so much so that in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, groups from both cocoa producing and consuming countries signed an open letter on racial injustice in the cocoa sector.  It is estimated that 1.56 million children work in the cocoa industry; many are forced to use dangerous tools and chemicals and carry enormous weights, in direct violation of international labor standards, the UN convention on child labor, and domestic laws.

While a majority of the child laborers in the cocoa industry are living and working on their parents’ farms, at least 16,000 children, and perhaps many more, are victims of forced labor-- a euphemism for slavery, working on West African cocoa farms far from home. The Washington Post recently did a series of exposés about the extent of this problem and how Cargill and other companies had continued purchases linked to forced child labor for decades after pledging to work to end it. 

Indeed, most cocoa farmers in West Africa earn less than one dollar per day as they grow the raw ingredients that go into Kit-Kats, Haagen-Dazs ice cream, and Nesquik chocolate milk. Living in some of the worst poverty in the world, Cargill and others finance the use of toxic chemicals that create health risks, while overall poverty contributes to related problems such as low life expectancy rates, illiteracy, and malnutrition. Farmers face tremendous obstacles in sending their children to school. 

It’s worth saying today that all of these children are Black and the chocolate companies are run largely by comfortable American and European executives who seem unable to gird themselves to take sufficient action to end their companies’ continued connection to Black slavery more than 150 years after the Civil War.

As a result, a group of formerly enslaved children from Mali sued Cargill and Nestle for buying cocoa from the owners of the farms where they worked under brutal conditions. The plaintiffs provided evidence that Cargill and Nestle representatives had visited the farms, and that the companies had provided financial and technical assistance in exchange for exclusive access to their crops. The plaintiffs sued under the Alien Tort Act which can be used to bring legal accountability for human rights violations and other breaches of international law. 

Unfortunately, on Wednesday, the Supreme Court ruled that the plaintiffs needed to provide more information to establish their standing to sue, giving Cargill and Nestle at least temporary impunity for their complicity in conditions of slavery. However, the plaintiffs are planning to refile their suit in ways that meet the standards laid out by the Court, though any successful legal action is likely to take years more - cold comfort for the formerly enslaved children.

That doesn’t mean these companies can’t be held accountable. For those looking to go beyond symbolic action on this Juneteenth, consider ways to bring pressure to bear on these companies. Send a message to chocolate companies like Nestle, Hershey’s and Mars asking them to end their connections to slavery. Consider how companies are performing on slavery and child labor when you purchase chocolate - our buying guide is a way to do that. And contact your legislators to urge them to ban import of cocoa and other agricultural goods connected to egregious human rights and environmental abuses.  

So today, celebrate Juneteenth for the progress it brought, but continue the fight against American companies’ ongoing contributions to Black slavery.



Paris, 17 juin 2021 - Ce matin, une dizaine de militants de l’ONG Canopée se sont rendus dans l’agence BNP Paribas du boulevard Sébastopol à Paris où ils ont déclenché une alarme incendie afin d’alerter sur la responsabilité de la banque dans les feux de forêts au Brésil. (voir video ici).

Cette action fait suite à plusieurs alertes restées sans réponse satisfaisante malgré l’urgence :

  • BNP Paribas a accordé près de 200 millions de dollars de financements liés au risque de déforestation à Cargill et Bunge entre 2015 et 2020 (1).
  • Plus de 60 000 hectares de forêts et d’écosystèmes ont été détruits par chacune de ces deux entreprises en 2019 et 2020 pour cultiver du soja au Brésil (2).
  • BNP Paribas n’a pris aucune mesure concrète et urgente pour couper ses liens avec ces entreprises. En février 2021, BNP a annoncé un objectif vague, et sans plan d’action concret, pour mettre fin à ses soutiens à la déforestation à l’horizon 2025 (3).
  • En mai 2021, la déforestation en Amazonie a augmenté de 41% par rapport à mai 2020. Un nouveau niveau record qui augure du pire pour la saison des incendies qui commence (4).

“C’est parce que BNP Paribas ne semble pas comprendre l’urgence à agir que nous venons tirer la sonnette d’alarme. S’il y avait vraiment le feu dans les agences, est-ce que la banque attendrait 2025 pour éteindre l’incendie?” explique Klervi Le Guenic, chargée de campagne chez Canopée.

BNP fait la sourde oreille. La banque est soumise à la loi sur le devoir de vigilance mais n’a toujours pas intégré des mesures pour réduire son exposition au risque de financer des entreprises dans la déforestation.” ajoute Sylvain Angerand, coordinateur des campagnes chez Canopée.

Près de 140 000 personnes se sont mobilisées pour demander à BNP d’arrêter de financer la déforestation (5). Si dans ses déclarations la banque promeut de grands engagements, ses réponses concrètes ne font en réalité preuve d’aucune ambition. Nous espérons que cette fois-ci, BNP saura user de son leadership à bon escient et renforcer sa politique pour enfin être à la hauteur de l’enjeu.” ajoute Leyla Larbi, chargée de campagne chez SumOfUs.

“BNP Paribas est le premier financeur au monde des activités à risque de déforestation des plus grands traders de soja du Brésil, Cargill et Bunge. Son virage est donc fondamental, mais ne doit être qu’un premier pas vers une transformation nécessaire du secteur financier, qui leur a accordé plus de 2 milliards d’euros entre 2015 et 2020” (6), conclut Nico Muzi, directeur européen chez Mighty Earth.

Contact presse:

Leyla Larbi, Chargée de campagnes, SumOfUs, +33 750 960 130
Klervi Le Guenic, Chargée de campagnes, Canopée, +33 7 52 64 08 54
Nico Muzi, Directeur Européen, Mighty Earth, +32 484 27 87 91


EU Deforestation Proposals

On behalf of the undersigned organisations

European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen,
Executive Vice-President Frans Timmermans,
Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, Virginijus Sinkevičius,
Commissioner for Justice, Didier Reynders,
Commissioner for Internal Market, Thierry Breton

Request not to delay any further the adoption of the legislative proposals on:
(i) minimising the risk of deforestation and forest degradation associated with products placed on the EU market; and (ii) sustainable corporate governance

Dear President Von der Leyen, Executive Vice-President Timmermans, and Commissioners Sinkevičius, Reynders and Breton,

In recent weeks, it has been reported that the Commission will delay the adoption of the legislative proposals on (i) minimising the risk of deforestation and forest degradation associated with products placed on the EU market and (ii) sustainable corporate governance – first until late July due to issues raised by the Regulatory Scrutiny Board, no until after the summer recess. This was confirmed by the indicative College of Commissioners’ agenda for 8 June – 28 July 2021, as neither proposal is listed for discussion.

It has also been reported in the media that the sustainable corporate governance file will now be co-led by Commissioner for Internal Market, Thierry Breton.

There has been no official statement from the Commission on either initiative to explain these delays or the change in direction on the sustainable corporate governance initiative. The fate of these proposals and their new timelines for adoption is now unclear. This raises concerns.

These initiatives are essential to ensure respect for human rights, promote sustainable development, and protect the environment – founding values of the European Union. They are also crucial to the EU’s efforts to address the global climate and biodiversity crises, and for protecting rights holders and communities around the world from the environmental and social impacts of EU business activities, supply chains, finance and consumption.

The European Parliament has sent a clear political signal to the Commission to develop ambitious and timely proposals on these initiatives. It adopted two landmark resolutions that formally request the Commission to propose strong legislation: on 22 October 2020 with recommendations to the Commission on an EU legal framework to halt and reverse EU-driven global deforestation, and on 10 March 2021 with recommendations to the Commission on corporate due diligence and corporate accountability.

The Council has also requested, on 16 December 2019, that the Commission expeditiously produce a proposal for demand-side regulatory measures to reduce the EU consumption footprint on land and encourage the consumption of products from deforestation-free supply chains, and called on the Commission, on 1 December 2020, to table a proposal for an EU legal framework on sustainable corporate governance.

EU citizens also strongly support the timely adoption of robust EU legislation on these initiatives, demonstrated by the overwhelming response to the respective public consultations.

With respect to the deforestation initiative, more than 1.1 million citizens responded in support of a strong EU law to protect the world’s forests, natural ecosystems and human rights, and 95% of all other respondents indicated that EU-level intervention on EU consumption would reduce global deforestation and forest degradation.

With respect to the sustainable corporate governance initiative, more than 80% of all respondents expressed support for developing an EU legal framework for due diligence, and over 80% of respondents – NGOs, companies and business associations alike – underlined the benefit of harmonisation of due diligence requirements at EU-level to avoid fragmentation.

The Commission had scheduled to adopt the legislative proposals on these initiatives in the second quarter of 2021. The Commission has committed to make EU supply chains more sustainable in the European Green Deal and in the Trade Policy Review ‘An Open, Sustainable and Assertive Trade Policy’. On 25 October 2021 it will be 10 years since the Commission committed to implement the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. Realisation of these commitments should not be further delayed.

These files should be top priorities for achieving the global dimension of the Green Deal.

The EU’s legislative process should be open, transparent and democratic. EU citizens have a right to know why the Commission has delayed these widely-supported initiatives. EU citizens also have a right to access the impact assessments and Regulatory Scrutiny Board’s opinions on them in good time to enable public discussion of the Commission’s proposed choices before they are adopted (as confirmed by the Court of Justice of the European Union in Case C-57/16 P). We call on the Commission to conduct its work as openly as possible, to make the impact assessments and Regulatory Scrutiny Board’s opinions available, and to publicly clarify the reasons for any delay.

These proposals are essential to protecting our most fundamental values: human rights and the environment. We urge you to ensure ambitious and timely action on these important initiatives.

Yours sincerely,

Anais Berthier, Head of EU Affairs, ClientEarth
on behalf of:
Africa Europe Faith & Justice Network (AEFJN)
Amnesty International
Anti-Slavery International
Clean Clothes Campaign European Coalition (CCC)
Conservation International - Europe
Coopération Internationale pour le Développement et la Solidarité (CIDSE)
Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA)
European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR)
European Coalition for Corporate Justice (ECCJ)
Fair Trade Advocacy Office
Fédération Internationale pour les Droits Humains (FIDH)
Forest Peoples Programme
Friends of the Earth Europe
Global Witness
Mighty Earth
The European Environmental Bureau
The Wildlife Conservation Society

Mighty Earth submit $1bn ‘Green bond’ application to convert Central Park and Hyde Park into rubber plantations

LONDON – Two of the world’s most famous recreational parks – Central Park in New York and Hyde Park in London – could be razed and transformed into huge new industrial rubber plantations under a proposed $1 billion ‘Green bond’ application submitted today by environmental campaign group Mighty Earth.

US-based Mighty Earth released a set of images including of New York's iconic Central Park, and Hyde Park in London, of their audacious plan to deforest and replace these two historic parks with lines of rubber trees as they submitted their $1bn application to the Climate Bonds Initiative (CBI) in London – the body that oversees the booming $1.3 trillion global ‘green bond’ market.

“We’re following in the footsteps of other financiers that have used green bonds to back industrial rubber projects that destroyed rainforests in Indonesia,” said Mighty Earth Campaign Director Alex Wijeratna. “We’re asking the CBI to rubber-stamp a $1 billion ‘Green bond’ to finance the flattening of Central Park and Hyde Park so we can plant thousands of rubber trees.“

“Millions of visitors to these famous parks might be a bit peeved by our rubber reforestation plans,” said Wijeratna. “But we promise we’ll keep a small part of the lake in Central Park intact and leave the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s sprawling Royal pad, Kensington Palace, in Hyde Park, untouched, too.”

Mighty Earth’s images show a scarred and unrecognizable landscape and the potentially catastrophic impact of their outlandish plans to bulldoze and industrially ‘reforest’ the iconic 340-hectare Central Park in New York and 253-ha Hyde Park/Kensington Gardens in London, which are renowned for their abundant trees, lakes, wildlife and natural beauty, and together are visited by over 55 million people each year.

Mighty Earth’s application to the CBI and green bond principles standard setting body the International Capital Market Association (ICMA) is designed to draw attention to the burgeoning issue of ‘greenwashing’ linked to self-labelled green bonds and the failure of the CBI to investigate and respond to Mighty Earth’s formal complaint and allegations of widespread deforestation linked to a $95 million CBI-screened ‘green bond’ on French tire maker Michelin’s 70,716-ha joint venture natural rubber project in the rainforests of Jambi, Indonesia.

Mighty Earth alleged in their complaint to the CBI on March 11, 2021, that over five thousand hectares of rainforest in Jambi – a globally significant biodiversity hotspot, that was home to two forest-dependent Indigenous communities and critically endangered Sumatran elephants, tigers and orangutans – was industrially deforested by a subsidiary of Michelin’s local partner. The complaint claims that Michelin’s knowledge of this deforestation was never publicly disclosed to investors when the bonds were sold to green investors on the Singapore Exchange in 2018, in a bond offering arranged by French bank BNP Paribas and facilitated by financiers ADM Capital.

Mighty Earth call for the $95m bond on Michelin’s rubber project to be struck off and delisted as an official CBI-screened green bond. Mighty Earth have had no formal response from the CBI to date and were recently told by CBI’s CEO Sean Kidney that their complaint about massive deforestation was “not a priority” for the CBI.

“Green bonds are plagued by greenwashing and the Climate Bonds Initiative has absolutely no interest in investigating our highly credible but inconvenient allegations of deforestation linked to Michelin’s flagship green bond-financed rubber project in Sumatra,” said Alex Wijeratna. “We’d like to test the CBI’s willingness to turn a blind eye to the deforestation of precious and iconic green spaces by seeing if they would approve of Hyde Park and Central Park being razed, bulldozed, and replanted with a massive industrial rubber tree plantation!”

About Mighty Earth

Mighty Earth is a global environmental campaign organization that works to protect forests, conserve oceans, and address climate change. We work in Southeast Asia, Latin America, Africa, and North America to drive large-scale action towards environmentally responsible agriculture that protects native ecosystems, wildlife, and water, and respects local community rights. Mighty Earth’s team has played a decisive role in persuading the world’s largest food and agriculture companies to dramatically improve their environmental and social policies and practices. More information on Mighty Earth can be found at

Contact: Campaign Director, Alex Wijeratna, [email protected] or + 44 (0)1753 370 824.


Peugeot Must Act Against Land-Grabs in Cambodia

On June 10, 2021, Mighty Earth, Equitable Cambodia, and Inclusive Development International sent an open letter to Peugeot, a global automobile brand. Despite new leadership and a strong commitment to sustainability, Peugeot has repeatedly refused to publicly condemn land grabbing and environmental damage perpetuated and caused by a subsidiary of their business partner, Truong Hai Auto Corporation (THACO). Recently, mediations restarted between the Indigenous communities and THACO, but so far they have refused to return Indigenous land in Ratanakiri in Cambodia. It is time for Peugeot to hold their partners accountable for land grabs and human rights abuses. Read our open letter to Linda Jackson, CEO of Peugeot, to learn more.

Open to letter to Linda Jackson, CEO of Peugeot.

プレス・リリース 環境保護団体マイティ・アース 報告書「隠蔽の煙幕:住友商事の『カーボンニュートラル』失敗の数々」を発表 気候変動行動計画での住友商事への株主提案の必要性示す


(ワシントンDC)– 本日、公開されたマイティ・アース(Mighty Earth)の報告(英文)では、住友商事株式会社が世界各地の事業活動で、最も深刻な環境汚染や環境破壊の原因となる形態のエネルギー生産に深く関与していることを詳細に述べ、今回の株主提案がどれほどの緊急性を帯びるものであるのかを強調している。「隠蔽の煙幕:住友商事の『カーボンニュートラル』失敗の数々」と題された同報告では、同社は大規模な炭鉱を所有し、深刻な環境汚染を引き起こす石炭火力発電所を新たに東南アジアに建造し、石炭火力発電所で混焼する木材を輸入するなど、様々な事業分野において、日本の産業の石炭への依存を最も強力に支えている企業の1つであることが紹介している













環境保護団体Market Forcesの福澤恵氏からも、同様の声が上がっている。「私たちは臨界点にいるため、パリ協定の目標を達成するのに必要な短期、中期目標が緊要です。住友商事の現在の計画はこの目標を達成するのには明らかに不十分です」と福澤は述べる。さらに福澤は「住友商事の計画は、気候にとって大惨事を引き起こすものであるのみならず、パリ協定に沿っていない、整合性のないタイムラインの化石燃料資産の撤退計画を考えると、座礁資産リスクへのエクスポージャーを抱える投資家に対しても危険である」と警鐘を鳴らしている。






日本:ロジャー・スミス(日本語対応可) – [email protected] 080-1850-7958

アメリカ:フェリム・カイン – [email protected]; 携帯電話/Signal/WhatsApp:+1 212 810 0469


Sumitomo Faces Shareholder Revolt Over Empty Climate Action Rhetoric

Mighty Earth Report Underscores Investor Concerns at Fossil Fuel Dependence


At Sumitomo Corporation's 2021 annual general meeting, 20% of shareholders, representing an estimated $2.53 billion in shares, voted in defiance of management and supported the resolution on climate change.
While it was positive to see Sumitomo respond to pressure and announce a shift away from the coal and natural resource side of the business and towards renewable energy, much more needs to be done to be consistent with the Paris Agreement.
Investors need to push Sumitomo to rule out involvement in the Matarbari 2 coal plant in Bangladesh, exit from all coal generation globally by 2040 (not the late 2040s), and end its involvement in wood biomass and adopt a no deforestation ("NDPE") policy. See our report for our full recommendations for Sumitomo regarding climate change.

Read the report

(Washington D.C) –Japanese conglomerate Sumitomo Corporation will face unprecedented investor pressure at its Annual General Meeting on June 18 for its failure to take adequate steps to reduce its massive global carbon emissions footprint, the Washington, D.C. environmental campaign organization Mighty Earth said today.  That pressure comes in the form of the first-ever climate resolution targeting a Japanese trading company by shareholders demanding that the firm align its strategies with the objectives of the with the 2015 Paris Agreement. The Paris Agreement aims to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius, and pursue a limit of 1.5 degrees Celsius, compared to pre-industrial levels.

The resolution reflects growing investor impatience with companies failing to implement substantive climate action policies. The resolution comes on the heels of last year’s resolution at Mizuho Financial Group and comes just ahead of a similar resolution at Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group later this month.

A Mighty Earth report released today underscores the urgency of that shareholder resolution by detailing Sumitomo’s deep involvement in the dirtiest and most environmentally destructive forms of energy production across its global operations. The report, “Smokescreen: Sumitomo’s ‘Carbon Neutral’ Failures,” reveals how Sumitomo is one of chief industrial facilitators of Japan’s addiction to coal through business lines ranging from ownership of massive coal mines to owning and constructing highly polluting new coal-burning power plants in Southeast Asia, to importing wood to be burned in coal plants.

“Sumitomo is a company at the center of global coal and biomass networks that mine, chop, finance, ship and burn the most destructive fuels on earth,” said Roger Smith, Mighty Earth’s Japan Project Manager.” “We’re starting to see shareholders question Sumitomo Corporation’s environmentally-friendly platitudes about achieving ‘carbon neutrality,’ in three decades’ time while simultaneously laying plans to continue highly-polluting fossil fuel operations for another twenty plus years. Sumitomo needs to adopt a stringent climate plan that quickly moves the company away from fossil fuels and towards clean, renewable energy.”

In May 2021, Sumitomo updated its climate plan to meet its professed goal of “contributing to addressing the many issues related to climate change mitigation and the realization of a carbon-neutral society.” But the new report lays out how the actual climate policy is still far from Paris-aligned and allows the firm to burn forests for fuel, start construction of two new coal power plant units in Bangladesh, increase the share of natural gas in its portfolio, operate thermal coal mines until 2030, and run coal power plants until the late 2040s. Sumitomo continues to rely heavily on imported forest biomass despite its high near-term carbon emissions, and lacks a no deforestation policy with safeguards against degrading sensitive forest ecosystems, including those in North America.

While little known outside Japan, the company has begun to dramatically increase imports of wood pellets from the U.S. and Canada as “biomass fuel” where wood is burned in power plants to produce electricity. A Sumitomo pellet-producing company recently faced criticism for its plans to log old-growth forests in British Columbia, and Sumitomo’s chief supplier in the Southeastern United States uses whole trees from already distressed ecosystems.

With wood pellet production in both the U.S. and Canada rapidly increasing, and Japan serving as the world’s fastest-growing market for pellets, scientists have sounded the alarm. This February, 500 academics wrote an open letter to President Biden, Prime Minister Suga and other world leaders to warn them against shifting from burning fossil fuels to burning trees stating, “Trees are more valuable alive than dead both for climate and for biodiversity. To meet future net zero emission goals, your governments should work to preserve and restore forests and not to burn them.”

That message is echoed by Meg Fukuzawa of the environmental finance organization Market Forces. “We are at a critical point where near-term targets are critical to reaching the goals of Paris, and Sumitomo’s are clearly insufficient,” Fukuzawa said. “Sumitomo’s plans are not only catastrophic to the climate, but investors should be worried about the possibility of finding themselves exposed to stranded assets if Sumitomo does not phase out of fossil fuels on Paris-aligned timeframes.”

Not only do these projects have an appallingly-high environmental price, Sumitomo is also paying a financial cost for its refusal to shift its operations to more environmentally friendly production modes. In FY 2020, Sumitomo Corporation lost ~$236 million (USD) on coal power in Australia, ~$73 million (USD) from sales of Marcellus and Eagle Ford oil and natural gas projects in the US, and ~$491 million (USD) related to costs and delays constructing power plants, including Matarbari 1 in Bangladesh. These losses constituted more than half of Sumitomo’s overall losses of ~$1.4 billion (USD) (153 billion yen).

“Sumitomo has a clear choice,” Smith said. “It can respond to shareholder concerns and reduce its global carbon emissions footprint in line with the goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement and reposition itself as a renewable energy market leader, or cling to its heavily-polluting 20th century industrial blueprint and continue to rack up financial losses and deepening shareholder antipathy with every year of continued delay.”


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