News

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.


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


1 https://www.reuters.com/business/environment/brazil-sees-most-june-fires-amazon-rainforest-since-2007-2021-07-01/
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. https://www.ibge.gov.br/estatisticas/economicas/agricultura-e-pecuaria/9203- pesquisas-trimestrais-do-abate-de-animais.html?=&t=series-historicas
and Brazilian Beef Exporters Association (ABIEC). http://abiec.com.br/en/
4 Libera, C. Mirote, S & Horta, A. (2020). Brazil’s Path to Sustainable Cattle Farming. https://www.bain.com/insights/brazils-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. https://cicb.org.br/cicb/dados-do-setor
7 UN Comtrade, https://comtrade.un.org/data/
8 Rainforest Foundation Norway. (2021). Driving deforestation: The European automotive industry’s contribution to deforestation in Brazil. https://d5i6is0eze552.cloudfront.net/documents/Publikasjoner/Andre-rapporter/Driving_Deforestation_16_June-compressed.pdf?mtime=20210617202546
9 UN Comtrade, https://comtrade.un.org/data/.


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.


Notes:

[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 www.4apes.com, a trustee of the Orangutan Foundation www.orangutan.org.uk 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.


ALERTE INCENDIE À BNP PARIBAS: DES MILITANTS DÉNONCENT LE SOUTIEN DE LA BANQUE AUX ENTREPRISES RESPONSABLES DE DÉFORESTATION

ALERTE INCENDIE À BNP PARIBAS: DES MILITANTS DÉNONCENT LE SOUTIEN DE LA BANQUE AUX ENTREPRISES RESPONSABLES DE DÉFORESTATION

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

Notes
(1)https://forestsandfinance.org
(2)https://www.mightyearth.org/wp-content/uploads/Mighty-Earth-tracker-update-FRENCH-V2.pdf
(3)https://www.canopee-asso.org/bnp-paribas-donne-5-ans-de-sursis-a-la-deforestation-liee-au-soja/
(4)https://www.oc.eco.br/en/novo-recorde-em-alertas-mostra-que-crime-ditara-taxa-de-desmate/
(5) https://actions.sumofus.org/a/bnp-paribas-stop-a-la-deforestation
(6)https://forestsandfinance.org/


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 www.mightyearth.org/.

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.


Notorious Palm Oil Giant Korindo Wins International Bully of The Year Award

Brussels, Belgium – A jury of distinguished European parliamentarians and expert NGOs – empaneled by the Coalition Against SLAPPs in Europe (CASE) – have awarded the Korindo Group the dubious title of International Bully of the Year. The notorious Korean-Indonesian palm oil, logging and wind tower conglomerate has been using legal tactics to intimidate and silence its critics for exposing it’s appalling track record on large-scale rainforest destruction and violation of the rights of Indigenous peoples in Papua and North Maluku, Indonesia. Rather than acknowledge and remedy these egregious practices, Korindo has responded with a range of legal threats to journalists, an international forestry certification body (the Forest Stewardship Council), and NGOs in Indonesia and around the world.

Since early 2020, one of Mighty Earth’s NGO partners, Center for International Policy, and its German NGO ally, Rainforest Rescue (Retten den Regenwald), have had to contend with an onerous and ill-conceived defamation suit (a so-called Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation, or “SLAPP”) filed against them by a Korindo supplier in Germany.

Deborah Lapidus, Vice President at Mighty Earth issued the following statement:

“The world is now recognizing what we have exposed for years—Korindo’s pattern of bullying its way into getting what it wants, from its unsavory acquisition of Indigenous lands to its burying investigative reports of its wrongdoing under the rug—and now through legal action aimed at silencing its critics.  Mighty Earth hopes that this award is a further reminder to Korindo that its strategy of clearing rainforests and running roughshod over Indigenous communities, then threatening those who expose these harms, is not only bad for people and bad for the climate – it is bad for business, as it further drags its reputation into the mud.

Korindo should drop its immoral lawsuit and focus its efforts and resources on preventing deforestation, compensating for rainforests and ecosystems it has destroyed, and providing restitution to the Indigenous people and communities that it has harmed.

Mighty Earth stands in solidarity with CASE in calling for the European Union to adopt legislation to protect NGOs and people across the EU against SLAPPs so that it’s not so easy for deep-pocketed companies like Korindo to bully NGOs, journalists, and activists into silence.”


Mighty Earth’s new monitoring data reveals deforestation connected to soy trader and meatpackers in Brazil more than doubled over two-year period

Mighty Earth’s new monitoring data reveals deforestation connected to soy trader and meatpackers in Brazil more than doubled over two-year period

The largest soy traders and meatpackers in Brazil have failed on their promises to end deforestation in their supply chains and continue to do business with suppliers that are destroying rainforests and savanna. 

review of the past two years of monitoring data (March 2019-March 2021) demonstrates that deforestation detected in companies’ supply chains more than doubled in the second year of monitoring compared to the firstHowever, despite this escalating crisis, only one case of deforestation has ever been resolved by these companies out of the 235 recorded by our monitoring.  

Thupdated tracker includes new data from Mighty Earth’s three latest Rapid Response reportsreleased in partnership with Aidenvironment. The new data builds on the original version of the tracker and policy brief released in December 2020 to encompass a full two years of monitoring (March 2019-March 2021.) 

Key Findings: 

  • The tracker update reveals that major soy traders and meatpackers are linked to more than 314,000 hectares deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon and Cerrado over the past two years (March 2019 to March 2021) -- an area larger than twice the size of London. Yet, out of 235 cases of deforestation that Mighty Earth has sent to companies, only one has ever been resolved. 
  • The data reveals a pattern of escalating amounts of deforestation carried out by soy trader and meatpacker suppliers. On average, deforestation connected to supply chains of soy traders and meatpackers more than doubled over a two-year period of monitoring. This pattern mirrors increasing rates of deforestation in the Amazon and Cerrado biomes overall during this time periodi. 
  • JBS was the worst-scoring meatpacker and company overall. It has been linked to 100,000 hectares of clearance the past two years – an area larger than all of Berlin. 75 percent of this clearance occurred in protected areas, making it potentially illegal under Brazilian law.  
  • Bunge and Cargill are the worst performing soy traders, despite their recent sustainability reports touting their nearly deforestation-free supply chainsBunge is linked to almost 60,000 hectares of clearance – more than a third of which took place in protected areas. Meanwhile, Cargill is linked to more than 66,000 hectares of clearance -- the largest amount out of any other soy trader.  
  • While no company performs well in the tracker, some are performing better than others, such as Amaggi and Louis Dreyfus out of the soy traders. 

Many US supermarkets continue to buy from Bunge, Cargill, and/or JBS despite these numbers – including Costco, Walmart, and Kroger. Bunge, Cargill, and JBS are also major suppliers to European supermarkets, including Tesco, EDEKA, Carrefour and Albert Heijn (Ahold Delhaize.)

In addition to the worst-scorer JBS above, the other two meatpackers included in the tracker, Marfrig and Minerva, are also poor performers, having been connected to more than 50,000 hectares of clearance eachMost of this clearance is potentially illegal, having occurred in protected areas. Much of the deforestation included in the meatpackers’ scores is related to their indirect suppliers, which meatpackers currently cannot fully trace and therefore cannot monitor for deforestation. 

Although Mighty Earth sends all instances of deforestation detected in our monitoring system to meatpackers and soy traders on a monthly basisthey very rarely take action on the suppliers responsible for the destruction. Only one case of deforestation has ever been resolved by a company, out of 235 cases to date that Mighty Earth sent to companies in the past two years 

One example of this inaction is meatpackers continuing to source from Agropecuária Santa Bárbara Xinguara (AgroSB a company that has direct and indirect links to JBS, Marfrig, and Minerva. Mighty Earth and Aidenvironment have caught AgroSB deforesting or setting fires on six separate occasions during the past two yearsAgroSB has also been accused of exploiting workers and money laundering.ii The clearance carried out by AgroSB now totals more than 2,800 hectares, more than 2,200 of which occurred in protected areas. The clearance could have been stopped long ago, but inaction from meatpackers allows business to continue as usual.  

Similarly, Cargill and Bunge continue to source from SLC Agrícola despite repeated deforestation cases connecting the supplier to more than 11,000 hectares of clearance over our two years of monitoring. Furthermore, SLC Agrícola is associated with $200 million land grabbing corruption schemeiii. While SLC Agrícola committed to stop deforesting in 2020, it admitted it still had more clearing to do before implementing the commitment and has actively opposed a deforestation cut-off date in the Cerradoiv. It also recently bought 8 new properties through its acquisition of Terra Santa Agro, one of which overlaps with more than 18,000 hectares of Indigenous land in Mato Grossov 

AgroSB and SLC Agrícola are examples of how the agricultural groups and property owners implicated in deforestation cases are often also connected to land conflicts, labor rights violations, government bribery and environmental crimes, which are further detailed in our Rapid Response reports. 

Beyond the issue of deforestation, many cases added to the tracker involve the concerning use of fire. About half of the deforestation cases from Rapid Response reports added to the latest tracker update also involved fire incidences. Often, producers use fire to clear debris from bulldozed trees after they’ve deforested. Fires set by agricultural companies can often spread out of control, resulting in the destruction of land and air quality of Indigenous and local communitiesvi. The worst performers in the tracker tended to be linked to more fire incidences. For instance, 63 percent of new cases connected to Bunge included in the updated tracker involved fire events on the property. Meanwhile, 55 percent of new cases connected to JBS involved fires. 

Ultimately, no company featured in the tracker can claim a clean supply chainAll companies in the tracker lack full traceability of their direct and/or indirect supply chain and therefore are limited in their validation and investigation of our reports of deforestation. Even the best performer in the tracker, soy trader Amaggi, still only earns a total of 56 points out of 100 points and is connected to more than 5,000 hectares of clearance. 

The Solution 

The buyers and financiers of the soy traders and meatpackers must take significant action that includes contractual penalties if significantly more progress on their zero-deforestation commitments is not made by supplying traders and meatpackersThey should ensure that the soy traders and meatpackers in their supply chain: 

1) Agree to a cut-off date for deforestation in the Cerrado with a 2020 cut-off date 

2) Adopt zero deforestation and zero conversion commitments for all sourcing areas, including those outside of Brazil. 

2) Adopt a suspend-then-engage approach to suppliers with widespread conversion, either legal or illegal 

3) Develop a publicly available joint-monitoring system that includes transparent traceability to farm-level for all suppliers 

4) Commit to the advancement of corporate and government policies that protect Indigenous land and secure workers’ rights 

Want to learn more about our methodology? 

Visit: https://www.mightyearth.org/methodology/ 
*Data reflects company responses as of April 15 2021 

Want to take action? 

Visit our petition pagehttps://actionnetwork.org/petitions/tell-cargill-bunge-jbs-to-act-to-stop-deforestation-in-latin-america  


Some Measure of Justice

Today’s verdict brought some measure of justice, though for George Floyd and his family above all, this cannot make up for his loss. And while today is a cause for hope, we know there have been so many other unjust verdicts in the past, and so many more cases like this that never even made it to trial. Even since George Floyd’s murder, there have been many other murders under similar circumstances, and daily reminders of violence and racism in our society. We celebrate the progress that was sparked by George Floyd’s death, but know that for Black Americans, they still face daily questions about how American institutions, the justice system, and the American people value their lives. Even with a sense of relief, we have so much to do in our thirst for a more just society.


Myanmar Security Forces: Stop Violent Attacks on Peaceful Demonstrators

Killings of Unarmed Civilians Demand Urgent Investigation & Accountability

Mighty Earth calls on Myanmar security forces to immediately cease violent attacks on peaceful protesters that have resulted in multiple deaths and injuries of unarmed civilians in the past 72 hours in cities across the country. We are dismayed by reports from multiple credible sources – including the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights – that “ police and military forces have confronted peaceful demonstrations, using lethal force and less-than-lethal force that…has left at least 18 people dead and over 30 wounded.”

We stand with the people of Myanmar in asserting that they should not be subjected to lethal force merely for peacefully exercising their universal human rights of freedom of expression and freedom of association. We urge Myanmar’s military leadership to work with the country’s democratically elected officials and civil society to establish a clear and rapid return to civilian rule. Myanmar’s forests and the rights of its people depend on a legitimate government.

“The peaceful exercise of the universal human rights of freedom of expression, assembly and association anywhere in the world, but particularly Myanmar at this moment, requires respect and protection, not extrajudicial executions by security forces who fail in their obligation to honor such basic freedoms,” said Glenn Hurowitz, Chief Executive Officer at Mighty Earth. “The Myanmar military leadership must respect the rights and legitimate democratic aspirations of the Myanmar people, or face global pariah status for choosing unlawful violence over peaceful engagement.”


Ivorian Ministry of Forest Pledges Progress on Joint Monitoring Program

In November 2017, the cocoa industry and the Government of Côte d'Ivoire pledged to halt deforestation caused by cocoa and "adopt a transparent satellite monitoring system whose results are independently validated and which provides an early warning of deforestation, quickly supplemented by field verification. This system [was] to be made available to the public immediately after the signing of the Common Framework for Action (CFA) so that all stakeholders can measure and monitor progress towards the overall deforestation target". Three years later, this has still not been achieved. 
 
It is in that context that Mighty Earth welcomes with great satisfaction the Ivorian Minister of Water and Forests' announcement, seconded by the President of the World Cocoa Foundation, of the rapid implementation of the long promised joint monitoring of deforestation and remedial measures. This announcement was made on February 25 during the last Cocoa and Forests Initiative (CFI) steering committee in which the two senior officials took part, along with 66 other participants. Joint monitoring is one of the CFI’s major commitments, and Mighty Earth has constantly called for its effective implementation. The launch of the Cocoa Accountability Map in 2020, recently updated in February 2021, is precisely an attempt to remedy this shortcoming.

Investigation reveals: three of the biggest US grocery chains sell Brazilian beef produced by a controversial meat company linked to the destruction of the Amazon rainforest

Exclusive: US chains Walmart, Costco and Kroger selling Brazilian beef produced by JBS linked to destruction of Brazilian rainforest

A Guardian investigation uncovers that Walmart, Costco Wholesale, and Kroger are selling beef from the most notorious deforester in Brazil, despite corruption and worse.

“Supermarkets need to go beyond their sustainability rhetoric by setting strict requirements for their suppliers, banning deforestation, monitoring their suppliers for compliance, and dropping contracts with the worst offenders like JBS,” said Mighty Earth.

Read the full story here.

Sign our petition to tell Costco: stop making American consumers complicit in buying the deforestation of the Amazon and get deforestation off our plates.

For more information on how cattle and soy companies like JBS and Cargill are linked to deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon and Cerrado, please visit our Soy and Cattle Deforestation Tracker.


Henry Waxman Honored with a "Baldy Award"

"Mighty Earth Chairman Henry Waxman has been honored with Bill Maher's inaugural "Baldy Award."

As Maher quotes, “50 percent of the social safety net was created by Henry Waxman when no one was looking.” And that’s the thing about being a workhorse instead of a show horse: no one is looking.

Ultimately, that’s the spirit we’re striving to emulate at Mighty Earth – drive transformative impact even if no one is looking.

See Maher's announcement here: