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To Save the Climate, Grocery Stores Must Stop Stocking Deforestation

To Save the Climate, Grocery Stores Must Stop Stocking Deforestation

In latest corporate accountability action, letters to Costco, Ahold Delhaize, and Walmart demand companies fulfill climate pledges and protect forests

NEW YORK – As activists gather in New York for Climate Week, they are increasingly focusing their attention on corporate behemoths driving deforestation and ecological destruction around the globe. Today, in the latest action seeking to hold companies accountable for the pledges they’ve made in the past, Mighty Earth has released letters calling on Costco, Ahold Delhaize, and Walmart to take immediate action to end their links to deforestation in the Amazon and throughout South America.

The burning of the Amazon and the darkening of skies have captured the world’s conscience. But while much of the blame for the fires has rightly fallen on Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro for directly encouraging the burning of forests and the seizure of Indigenous Peoples’ lands, the financial incentive for the destruction comes from large-scale international meat and soy animal feed companies like Cargill, Bunge, and JBS.

Costco, Ahold Delhaize, Walmart, and other global brands that buy from these suppliers and sell to the public are creating the international markets and providing the finances for the destruction.

Ten years ago, Consumer Goods Forum (CGF) members made a commitment to end deforestation in their supply chains by 2020, with an emphasis on high risk commodities such as soy, cattle, palm oil, and pulp and paper. Five years later, at the 2014 Climate Summit in New York, 60 additional companies joined in this pledge as a part of the landmark New York Declaration on Forests.

But progress toward these lofty goals has been lacking. According to Forest 500’s 2018 Annual Report, “As the 2020 deadline approaches, not one of the Forest 500 companies and financial institutions assessed in 2018 is on track to eliminate commodity-driven deforestation from their supply chains and portfolios by next year. Yet nearly half have made commitments to do so by 2020 or earlier […] Even companies with ambitious commitments are not putting these into practice. Of the 228 companies assessed in 2017 and 2018, nearly 70% scored lower this year than last year, due to the new indicators on implementation. This reflects an implementation gap – companies are not executing their commitments.”

“Costco, Ahold Delhaize, and Walmart have called for change and asked for supply chain reforms,” said Mat Jacobson, Senior Director for Forests at Mighty Earth. “But these polite requests have been ignored. Money talks, and the grocery stores’ calls for change aren’t making a difference because they continue to buy from the suppliers driving deforestation. Cargill, Bunge, and JBS shrug off the bad press and keep cashing checks. It’s time for that to end. We want these grocery stores to stop doing business with the companies driving deforestation in the Amazon.”

The letters, delivered late last week, call on Costco, Ahold Delhaize, and Walmart to:

  • Immediately cease purchases and financing of any company responsible for destruction of forests and other native ecosystems or the theft of Indigenous and local community lands, and adopt an immediate supplier suspension policy for future violations.
  • Require suppliers to establish industry-wide mechanisms to monitor and stop destruction of native ecosystems across South America.
  • Establish and implement a zero-tolerance policy for attacks on environmental and human rights defenders and civil society advocates.
  • Move rapidly towards only buying from countries that are increasing their natural forest cover and protecting the rights of Indigenous Peoples, including Free Prior and Informed Consent.
  • Work with civil society to actively and publicly support government efforts to protect native ecosystems and the rights of Indigenous Peoples and local communities through stronger regulatory frameworks and enforcement.
  • Require suppliers to implement regenerative agro-ecological farming practices that verifiably improve soil health, water quality, and biodiversity.
  • Set a public, science-based target to rapidly shift a significant portion of protein sales towards plant-based options.

Read the full letters here.

These new letters are just the latest in a series of actions seeking to hold corporations accountable for their climate action pledges. Monday, Mighty Earth joined dozens of NGOs in asking members of the Consumer Goods Forum “to take bold and urgent action to halt deforestation, species loss, and human rights abuses within supply chains.” Activists from several organizations gathered outside a meeting of the Consumer Goods Forum on Monday night to hold a “vigil for the Amazon” and demand that member companies immediately cut all ties to deforestation.

The letters and vigil plainly caught the attention of CGF, as they invited Mighty Earth Senior Campaign Director Etelle Higonnet into the meeting to present Mighty Earth’s concerns to many of the top executives as well as the presidents of the Tropical Forest Alliance and CGF.

A follow-up protest will be held on October 7, as activists will converge on the InterContinental New York Barclay – where Cargill’s Senior Vice President is speaking – to call for rapid changes.

“We don’t have the luxury of trusting corporate pledges anymore,” said Jacobson. “We applauded when these companies pledged to eliminate deforestation from their supply chains by 2020, and that promise is now literally going up in smoke. It’s time for real, concrete action. Not one year from now, not 10 years from now. Right now.”

See also:


World Green Building Council Sounds the Alarm on Embodied Carbon

Today, the World Green Building Council released its new report, Bringing Embodied Carbon Upfront. In response, Mighty Earth Campaign Director Margaret Hansbrough released the following statement:

"Today's report from the World Green Building Council is a seismic shift toward sustainable construction. WGBC has done the critical work of convening industry stakeholders, forging consensus, and pushing forward a bold collective vision for how to reduce the embodied carbon in construction materials like steel and cement.

"When we released our Construction Destruction report last year at USGBC's Greenbuild conference, our aim was to shake up the construction industry into acting as fast as possible. Today is a welcome sign of forward momentum from the global construction industry's leading climate voice.

"The impressive list of industry endorsements WGBC has garnered suggests this is a watershed moment. Each of these companies must now develop a public plan and commitment for how they will work to achieve the net zero building future in the near, mid, and long term. It is estimated that, without urgent action immediately, embodied carbon will be responsible for at least half, if not more, of total new construction emissions between now and 2050. There is no time to lose."


Deforestation Continues Because Companies Aren't Trying

A new assessment released by Climate Focus has found that an area of tree cover the size of the United Kingdom was lost every year between 2014 and 2018. The assessment suggests that achieving the 2020 New York Declaration on Forests targets is now likely impossible. In response to the new report, Mighty Earth CEO Glenn Hurowitz released the following statement:

"Forests are burning in large measure because the big companies that committed to save them are not actually trying to do so. Companies like Ahold Delhaize, McDonald’s, and Mars are, despite all their pledges, continuing to do business on a vast scale with the very companies most responsible for this deforestation, such as Cargill and JBS. Not only are these companies directly financing deforestation, they have repeatedly lobbied governments to stop basic environmental protections. Nobody doing business with Cargill and JBS can credibly say they are concerned about deforestation.

"The tragedy of these findings is that they also demonstrate that success is possible. Companies can achieve dramatic progress when they actually make an effort. These same companies have largely, though imperfectly, enforced their no deforestation polices in the palm oil industry, and the results on the ground show it: deforestation for palm oil has declined from 1 million acres a year to 200,000 acres per year. This is, of course, still 200,000 acres of deforestation too many, but it also shows real progress is possible."

Additional resources:

 


Korindo Threatens Legal Action to Bury the Truth

Palm oil and timber conglomerate sends Forest Stewardship Council a “cease and desist” letter the day it was scheduled to release findings from two-year investigation into the company’s wrongdoing

JAKARTA – Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), a global certification body for responsible forest management, was scheduled to release summaries of its investigatory findings from a two-year investigation into the Korindo Group, a notorious Korean-Indonesian logging and palm oil conglomerate, on September 5, 2019. However, Mighty Earth was notified by FSC that it has indefinitely delayed the publication of its findings after receiving dubious legal threats from Korindo, including the apparent delivery of a "cease and desist" letter.

"Korindo is using the threat of legal action to bury the FSC's findings and suppress evidence of its wrongdoing," said Mighty Earth Senior Campaign Director Deborah Lapidus. "These are not the actions of an innocent party. Korindo's willing embrace of bullying tactics is proof they have something to hide."

The investigation, prompted by a complaint filed by Mighty Earth, concluded that Korindo had flouted the FSC's 'Policy for Association' by violating indigenous peoples' rights, carrying out significant conversion of natural forests, and destroying significant areas of High Conservation Value (HCVs).

Yet, for years Korindo has been using the FSC's prestigious eco-forestry label to greenwash its destructive practices. Korindo sells its timber, plywood, pulpwood, biomass, and newsprint to customers such as Asia Pulp & Paper (Indonesia), APRIL (Indonesia), Sumitomo Forestry (Japan), Oji Corporation (Japan), Marubeni (Japan), and News Corps Australia.

As a result of Korindo's violations of FSC standards, the FSC imposed a series of measures on the company to improve its practices and address its liabilities for the severe damages it caused. These conclusions were announced in July 2019. According to the FSC statement, Korindo will be required to continue its suspension of any forest conversion and deforestation, achieve FSC certification in all its forestry operations and to comply with the principle of FPIC [Free Prior and Informed Consent]. Korindo is also required to assess past negative impact and secure remedy for it. Furthermore, the FSC says it will disassociate Korindo if it fails to adhere to these requirements.

"Instead of acknowledging its wrongdoing and taking responsibility for its actions, Korindo chose to spin the conclusions of the FSC investigation and proclaim its innocence in the press. If Korindo wants the truth to be known about what the FSC found, it should call on FSC to release the full findings of its investigations – as we have done – so that the public can see the truth for themselves," said Lapidus. "But instead, Korindo is trying to intimidate FSC into silence, as it has attempted to do with Mighty Earth and many of our NGO partners."

"There is no justification for FSC's complicity in covering up Korindo's wrongdoing. It needs to stop doing the dirty work of deforesters and start acting like a sustainability organization," Lapidus added.

“We urge the FSC to stand strong and proceed with releasing the full findings of the investigations, as they are required to do by their own procedures. Do not give in to Korindo's gangster-style threats,” said Mighty Earth Campaign Director and FSC expert Phil Aikman. "Korindo's customers deserve to know the truth about the origins of their purportedly sustainable products. The indigenous people who have suffered at the hands of this nefarious conglomerate deserve to see Korindo held accountable and to be fairly compensated. And the public has the right to know just how much precious rainforest was destroyed."

"We call on the FSC to suspend Korindo, as the company is acting in obvious bad faith and is clearly not ready to accept its liabilities,” Aikman concluded.

Mighty Earth’s call for accountability and transparency was echoed by community organizations working in Papua.

Franky Samperante of Yayasan Pusaka, which works to defend indigenous land rights in Papua said, "We got the complaints from the victims that are impacted by logging and palm oil company, subsidiary company of Korindo Group. Land, forest and sago hamlet which are their food resources and livelihood are being destroyed. The river as the clean water supply has been contaminated by plant waste and pesticides. Their rights and power over their own land moved unwittingly. Indigenous people and workers are subjected to violence and intimidation threats."

"Korindo is also not taking its corporate social responsibility seriously," said Pastor Anselmus Amo from SKP-KAMe Meruake, a Papuan human rights organization. "FSC should consult directly with affected communities to better understand Korindo’s egregious actions and the communities’ views on what fair compensation and remediation measures would be. We stand ready to help resolve this long standing conflict."

Samperante added, "For over decades, Korindo has gotten away with violating indigenous peoples’ land rights without exposure, while selling itself in the media as a savior to the Papuan people. Korindo should be seriously committed to respect and recover our rights and protect local environment."

***
Further information, please contact:

Alex Armstrong
Mighty Earth
[email protected]

Ayunda Putri
Image Dynamics
[email protected]


International Day of Action for the Amazon: Global Community Sets Stage for Climate Week

Today, concerned citizens across six continents – from Hong Kong to Washington and Paris to Pretoria – will take action for the Amazon by protesting the ongoing fires and deforestation. In a show of international solidarity with indigenous leaders, activists around the world are standing up to President Jair Bolsonaro's reckless policies and the international corporations profiting off environmental destruction.

The burning of the Amazon and the darkening of skies have captured the world’s conscience. But while much of the blame for the fires has rightly fallen on President Bolsonaro for directly encouraging the burning of forests and the seizure of Indigenous Peoples’ lands, the incentive for the destruction comes from large-scale international meat and soy animal feed companies like JBS, Marfrig, and Cargill, according to a recent Mighty Earth report.

Additional research from media and advocacy organizations has helped identify a group of 12 companies responsible for the ongoing deforestation and destruction in the Amazon. This “Dirty Dozen” covers the financing of projects causing deforestation, the traders who help create the market for commodities like soy and beef that are linked to deforestation, and the retailers who sell the resulting products to unsuspecting consumers.

As part of the International Day of Action, Mighty Earth and nearly 100 allied groups – including Amazon Watch, Sierra Club, Rainforest Action Network, Extinction Rebellion, Natural Resources Defense Council, Friends of the Earth, SumOfUs, Center for Biological Diversity, Endangered Species Coalition, Canopée, Rettet den Regenwald, Danmarks Naturfredningsforening, International Accountability Project, Native Forest Council, Humane League, and others – have sent letters to the CEOs of these 12 companies outlining the steps they must take to end their role in incentivizing destruction of the Amazon and other fragile ecosystems.

Read the letters to Big Finance and Mega Retailers here.

Today’s actions also set the stage for Climate Week in New York City (September 23-29).

“Companies like Cargill, Ahold Delhaize, and others have previously used Climate Week as an opportunity for splashy announcements and feel-good pledges,” Mighty Earth CEO Glenn Hurowitz said. “But after years of failing to deliver on these promises, their words ring hollow. This Climate Week will mark five years since the signing of the New York Declaration on Forests, and one year left until their original 2020 deadline. The Amazon is on fire, the climate crisis is worsening, and the world cannot afford dithering and excuses any longer. These companies must take decisive action now.”

Background materials


Looking at Opportunities for Sustainability in Rubber

Sustainable Natural Rubber- Pathways, Policies and Partnerships is being held from 24-26 September 2019 hosted by Rainforest Alliance, Mighty Earth, Einhorn Products, Prince of Songkla University, and Earth Net Foundation, Thailand. RSVP here!

Over a decade ago, when I started working with coconut farmers in Ban Krut, Prachuab Khiri Khan, Thailand to develop an organic coconut value chain, many of these farmers also grew rubber. Despite the work on organic coconut, there was no interest or discussion about sustainable or organic rubber. It didn't seem to merit any interest at the time, in part because rubber is not eaten, and also because it needs to be processed with chemicals to yield rubber-based products such as tires and wetsuits.

Today looks very different than 10 years ago. Many key business stakeholders are beginning to understand the need for sustainability in rubber and are adapting their sourcing policies to address this in their supply chains. The newly established Global Platform for Sustainable Natural Rubber is evidence of this and has brought together the largest number of actors from this sector so far. However, end users outside of the tire industry as well as rubber farmers and tappers remain missing voices in the platform. There are other mechanisms today for sustainable rubber as well. Thai organic coconut farmers who also grow rubber can have their latex certified as part of the “Fair Rubber” initiative. The Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC) has taken an early lead in sustainable rubber certification by actively working to engage market players.

These policies and platforms reflect a growing trend of leaders in sustainability looking deeper into their purchasing and supply chains—and this demand is coming from all sides. Consumers want to know more about the brands and products they choose: what it is, where it comes from, and the impact that it has on our planet and its people. Research shows that companies that demonstrate and communicate sustainability leadership in new areas have a clear market advantage, along with other benefits such as secure supply chain, engaged employees, and stakeholder confidence.

This growing interest in more sustainable agricultural and forestry supply chains represents a massive opportunity for positive impact on communities, local watersheds, biodiversity, and national economies. Across commodities, agriculture effects massive areas of land. For rubber alone, over 14 million hectares are cultivated, and there are millions of associated farmers and laborers.

Unless we can link investment in sustainable practices with demand from responsible markets, it is difficult to move toward sustainability or achieve certification. Farmers, particularly small-scale farmers, are on the economic edge, usually laden with substantial debts and facing the constant risks of poor yields and low prices, either of which could lead to failure and bankruptcy. Even without a significant shift in practices, achieving certification adds a cost in time, training, and resources. If major shifts in practices are also needed, this requires an even greater investment and effort.

Much of the initial focus has been on preventing additional deforestation, similar to efforts with oil palm, and these commitments are critically important. However, with low rubber prices in the market for several years now, pressure to clear more land for rubber has been reduced. As such, it is also critically important to look at the management of rubber lands and practices that support biodiversity, watershed and soil health, and carbon sequestration. This must be done alongside consideration of the economics of the supply chain and developing goals that ensure farmers realize financial stability and improved livelihoods through rubber cultivation, regardless of fluctuations in the market and price.

An interesting possibility for improving the ecology and economics of rubber cultivation for farmers lies in exploring how diversity and ecology can be brought back to the millions of hectares that have already been transformed to monoculture. Here we see a huge opportunity, as demonstrated in research from the Prince of Songkla University and the experience of many farmers in Thailand. Both show that rubber can be effectively grown in diverse agroforestry systems to deliver comparable latex yields and much better performance on ecological measures such as erosion, water sequestration, biodiversity, carbon sequestration, and microclimate, while providing beneficial secondary yields of other commodities grown on the same land.  This should not be surprising at all, as the rubber tree’s (Hevea brasiliensis') native habitat is in the most diverse forests of the Amazon.

It is critical that we begin transforming the rubber sector and send signals from the market that there is a demand for sustainability managed rubber farms and latex. This is fundamental to the long-term viability of natural rubber overall, as it is apparent that rubber farmers, like many types of farmers, are an aging population. Many farmers do not want or expect any of their children to farm and tap rubber. This perspective is not overly surprising given the low returns and difficult work of rubber cultivation. In addition, the job of a rubber tapper is not always seen as reputable work. These factors can have a negative impact on the future supply of natural rubber, despite the expected growth in market demand for rubber. We have a massive opportunity to improve the livelihoods and labor conditions for rubber tappers, to introduce new methods of management and technologies to improve yields, and to make rubber tapping a more sought-after job.

In truth, we are just starting this exploration for natural rubber and many other solutions are still yet to be developed.   When the key actors and supporters of value chains from farmers to processors, from enterprises to final consumers, work together, and when government agencies and NGOs help facilitate the right environment and provide key support where needed, the potential for rapid and dramatic shifts towards sustainability or even the step beyond sustainability—to regeneration—is frankly amazing.

It is not clear where we will go, but in the next decade we can and will dramatically shift the natural rubber value chain and its impact on our planet to be far more sustainable. If you would like to join us in exploring this potential and discussing some of the solutions proposed at a multi-stakeholder dialogue taking place near some of the most interesting sustainable rubber farming innovation in Hat Yai, Thailand, please contact Margaret Kran-Annexstein ([email protected]).

Michael B. Commons,  Earth Net Foundation, Thailand

 


Cold Steel, Hot Climate

New Report: Steel Industry Vulnerable, Must Prepare for Decarbonization

Top 20 companies are not on pace to hit critical emissions reductions needed for 1.5-degree threshold

CDP, formerly known as Carbon Disclosure Project, published a new report assessing 20 of the largest and high-impact publicly listed steel companies on their readiness for a low-carbon transition. The report, entitled “Melting Point,” identified SSAB, ArcelorMittal, Hyundai Steel, and Tata Steel as the companies best positioned to succeed as the industry transitions to low carbonization; the least prepared companies were Inner Mongolia Baotou Steel, U.S. Steel, and Beijing Shougang. U.S. Steel, along with Nucor, declined to respond to CDP’s 2018 climate change questionnaire.

In response to the report, Mighty Earth Campaign Director Margaret Hansbrough released the following statement:

“This report is a clear signal to the steel industry and global investors that the time to act on the climate crisis is now. The transition to a low-carbon economy is coming, and implications for the entire construction sector are massive. In the next 18 months, each of the companies named in this report must step up and put forward public plans for deep decarbonization.

“This report also exposes the vulnerability of customers. Top steel consumers like Skanska, the global green construction leader, source steel directly from companies identified by CDP. General Motors and its joint ventures continue to buy from many of the companies named in the report for not doing enough to decarbonize.

“Leaders and investors in the auto and construction industries need to step up in an unprecedented way to begin the hard but critical work of decarbonizing their steel supply chains.”

The IPCC reported that in order to keep global temperature rise below 1.5 degrees Celsius, industrial emissions must be cut in half in the next ten years. In 2018, Mighty Earth launched a global campaign focused on cleaning up the steel industry, which accounts for an estimated 8 percent of global emissions, and is pushing major producers and their customers to commit to carbon neutrality. Mighty Earth published a report in October 2018 calling for Nucor to adopt new practices and for its customers to hold it accountable to climate action.

Earlier this year, steel producer ArcelorMittal pledged carbon neutrality in Europe by 2050 and consumer Skanska UK pledged total carbon neutrality for its supply chain by 2045.

CDP and Mighty Earth are both members of ResponsibleSteel, a coalition which will set standards and certification plans for the steel industry by 2020. To access the CDP report, please visit https://bit.ly/2Yf031X.


As Massive Dead Zone Blooms in Gulf, Hold Industrial Farming Companies Responsible

Today, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced that scientists have determined that this year’s Gulf of Mexico “dead zone” is 6,952 square miles, nearly the size of New Jersey. In response, Mighty Earth Campaign Director Lucia von Reusner released the following statement:

“The collapse of one of our most important watersheds is tragic not only because of its size, impact on marine life, and consequences on Gulf economies – but because it’s entirely predictable and preventable. Uncontrolled runoff from industrial meat production flushed down the Mississippi River into the Gulf of Mexico is known to be the main source of pollution causing the dead zone. The raw sewage from livestock waste and runoff from grain fields washing into waterways across the Midwest has reached crisis levels – contaminating drinking water, causing toxic algae blooms, and deoxygenating important waterways throughout the Mississippi River watershed.

“The very predictability of this crisis is the most damning indictment. America’s meat companies know where their waste is going and what effect it has on water quality, but are content to leave these problems to communities downstream that have to foot the bill. This is shameless corporate abuse of our public waterways. It is time the companies responsible are held to account for cleaning up American waterways.

“As climate-fueled flooding becomes commonplace in America, the industrial meat companies like JBS and Cargill that are responsible for driving polluting farming practices must immediately take action to implement protections for America’s water.”

A recent Mighty Earth analysis showed that nearly 220 million tons of untreated animal waste and other pollutants washed freely off industrial farms into the Mississippi River watershed in 2018, endangering local water quality and ultimately contributing to the toxic algal blooms fueling the annual Gulf dead zone. This is 500 times more raw sewage than New York City produced during the same year. America’s largest meat companies have concentrated their slaughterhouses and processing facilities near waterways throughout the Mississippi River Basin that are increasingly prone to flooding, while failing to develop and implement practices to protect water quality.

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

This announcement comes shortly after the publication of Mighty Earth’s “Cargill: Worst Company in the World” report, which documents decades of bad acts by Cargill and calls on the company to take action to address the negative impacts of its massive supply chain. Cargill is the second-largest feed beef processor in North America and the largest supplier of ground beef in the world.

Additional Resources:


Standing up for forests and farmers

Mighty Earth applauds the government of Cote d’Ivoire for seeking to better protect its forests and for its willingness to move towards a greener future, putting behind the bitter past of losing 85 percent of its forests since 1990. Likewise, we welcome positive elements in the new Ivorian forest code, recently adopted by the Ivorian National Assembly.

However—we are gravely concerned by the implications of mass evictions from parks and protected areas.  Incentivized by decades of the $100-billion-a-year chocolate industry turning a bind eye to forest destruction and funding illegal cocoa production in these areas, 1.5 - 2 million people thought to be living illegally in the parks and protected areas of Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana

In its declaration, the Ministre des Eaux et Forêts was clear that protected areas will be emptied of their inhabitants.

We call urgently for the recognition and respect of the human rights of these  inhabitants. These people have rights and must be protected from abuses.

Published below is our recent Joint Human Rights Watch-Mighty Earth Cote d'Ivoire Dispatch regarding the urgent need to guarantee the human rights of illegal cocoa farmers. Also below is  a 2018 open letter, co-signed by Mighty Earth, Human Rights Watch (HRW), Le Regroupement des Acteurs Ivoiriens des Droits de l'Homme(RAIDH), and Fern, regarding egregious abuses of illegal cocoa farmers inside the Ivorian national park of Marahoue.

This previously unpublished letter presents the findings of a joint investigation to the government of Cote d’Ivoire.  Following unsuccessful negotiations with the government, led by senior environmental advisor to the president, Dr. Mamadou Fofana, authorities declared that the government of Cote d’Ivoire would refuse to hold any perpetrators accountable or to compensate victims in any way. Given the risks that farmers now face, the Marahoue case has renewed relevance, and so we publish it today, along with videos and photos taken during the Marahoue field investigation.

We call on the Ivorian authorities to protect human rights and allow independent civil society monitors to observe any actions taken. In parallel, we call upon the chocolate industry to create a humanitarian aid fund to compensate farmers who are expelled from parks and protected areas. Having created the conditions leading to the illegal occupations of these areas the industry has a moral responsibility to finance solutions, and assist expelled farmers in rebuilding their lives.


Farmers Face New Round of Eviction from Protected Forests in Côte d’Ivoire

Government Should Ensure Small-Scale Farmers Receive Adequate Notice, Compensation

Jim Wormington, Researcher, Human Rights Watch
Etelle Higonnet, Campaign and Legal Director, Mighty Earth

Côte d’Ivoire, fighting widespread and rapidly advancing deforestation, is embarking on an ambitious plan to reclaim and rehabilitate its forests. As it moves to protect a key national resource, the government needs to be careful not to trample of the rights of the thousands of small-scale farmers now facing eviction.

Côte d’Ivoire has seen its forest decline from 50 percent of its territory in 1900 to less than 12 percent in 2015. Much of the deforestation has been driven by Côte d’Ivoire’s cocoa industry – the world’s biggest – with the government estimating between 30 and 40 percent of cocoa comes from protected forests. Most cocoa is produced by small-scale farmers who receive only a fraction of the profits from crop sales.

In June 2018, Côte d’Ivoire published a new forestry policy that would convert most of its decimated protected forests to Agro-Forests, with multinational companies – mostly from the lucrative global chocolate industry – responsible for developing sustainable agroforestry cocoa farming methods. For the remaining forests, the Ministry for Water and Forests proposes to strictly enforce long-neglected laws banning farming and occupying protected forests and national parks.

The implementation of the new forestry policy will likely result in the evictions of thousands of small-scale cocoa farmers, with an estimated 1.5 to 2 million cocoa farmers living in protected forests and national parks in Côte d’Ivoire and neighboring Ghana. The Ivorian protected forest of Scio, for example, where thousands of people live, reportedly received notice of an eviction operation planned for July.

Although the Ivorian government has the right to reclaim forests intended for conservation, international law protects anyone who occupies land from forced evictions that do not respect the dignity and rights of those affected, regardless of where they are living.

Past eviction operations in Côte d’Ivoire have left farmers’ families without adequate shelter, food, and education, and we have documented extortion, corruption, and physical abuses committed by government agents conducting evictions. In an October 2017 letter on the creation of Agro-Forests, we also warned that large agricultural companies often fail to protect the rights of small-scale farmers, especially when national regulations are unclear or not enforced.

The Ivorian government is right to want to protect and rehabilitate forests. But it should ensure that evictions are only used as a last resort and farmers receive adequate notice, compensation for property and crops, and assistance finding new land or obtaining new livelihoods. Measures to protect the environment, such as the protection of protected forests, should be implemented while respecting the rights of those who live in the area.

This piece is crossposted from Human Rights Watch


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More photos and videos.

Read Marahoue letter in French here.

Read Marahoue letter in English here.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pour aller plus loin :

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


Mighty Earth Responds to Cargill's Announcement of Revisions to Forests, Soy, and Human Rights Policies

In response to Cargill’s publication of its latest policies regarding soy, forests, and human rights, Mighty Earth CEO Glenn Hurowitz released the following statement:

"Cargill is moving in the right direction by extending their promise to end deforestation by 2020 to also protect other critical ecosystems like South America’s Cerrado, Gran Chaco, and Llanos. This announcement has the potential to be the starting point that leads to a major breakthrough for more sustainable meat, cocoa, and palm oil.

"Our field investigations have shown that despite multiple commitments to protect forests over the last decade, Cargill often lags behind their competitors in the implementation of those commitments. In 2014, Cargill joined other companies in a CEO-level commitment to end deforestation across its major supply chains by 2020. Since then, we and others have published repeated investigations documenting extensive deforestation in its soy supply chain in Bolivia, Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay.

"Over the last three weeks, I’ve been happy to hold constructive discussions about these issues several times with Cargill CEO David MacLennan; his personal focus gives us hope that Cargill has the potential to turn a corner to address deforestation across its soy, cocoa, and palm oil supply chains. Cargill also needs to dramatically improve its performance to stop destroying native vegetation and allowing fertilizer and manure to pollute America’s waterways.

"To win the trust of customers, communities, and the public, Cargill needs to show right away that it will enforce this policy by ensuring that any supplier that engages in destruction of native ecosystems is not part of their supply chain. It also needs to spread its own decade-long success in working with other companies to eliminate deforestation for soy in the Brazilian Amazon to the other soy-growing ecosystems. This is the world’s most successful private sector environmental initiative, and there’s no reason to confine it to just the Brazilian Amazon while massive deforestation continues in other areas. Cargill must also implement agroforestry practices in their cocoa supply chain and ensure farmers receive decent wages so that they can provide the sustainable chocolate that the world’s consumers demand.

"We are hopeful that soon we will be able to praise Cargill not just for promises, but for action. We will be watching closely."


Return to Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana - Second Field Investigation and Satellite

 From the field: Ongoing Deforestation in Cote D’Ivoire

Mighty Earth returned to Côte d’Ivoire to see what’s happened on the ground, since the chocolate industry and government promises made at the November 2017 COP in Bonn — to go deforestation-free


One year ago, the world’s largest chocolate and cocoa companies stood beside representatives of Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, the two major cocoa-producing countries, and committed to transform their industry. They said they would end deforestation linked to the production of cocoa and protect human rights better. Mighty Earth monitored these promises all year. We conducted analysis of remote sensing data of forests in the cocoa-growing regions of Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana. In October 2018, Mighty Earth sent a field team to check things out on the ground in Côte d’Ivoire. Did the reality live up to the promises?


This is what we found.

In the Goin Debé classified forest, deforestation for cocoa was continuing, and the local cocoa farmers reported that families were exchanging land to make room for more cocoa. One forest had been cleared and planted with cocoa just two days before our team arrived – in the protected area we had investigated less than a year prior.

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In the Cavally Forest Reserve, the team headed into a dense intact forest, their path cleared by the machete swings of SODEFOR rangers. After 30 minutes, the forest cover began to thin and cocoa trees appeared. Some were one year old or less, indicating that they had likely been planted after the Frameworks of the Cocoa and Forest Initiative were announced in November 2017 at the Bonn COP.


 

 

Some protected areas are on the verge of extinction in the next 10 years, if the deforestation rates of the last year continue. These forests are mostly in the Southwest of the Côte d’Ivoire, in the cocoa producing heartland. Goin Debé is projected to vanish in around fifty years, if we continue with business as usual. Moyen Cavally the same.


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Full-sun cocoa prevents the growth of other species, and creates a biodiversity wasteland – a food desert for birds, bats, bees, and other living things. In contrast, densely shaded agroforestry retains important benefits of a natural forest.


While top chocolate companies and their executives and investors make sizable profits in this industry worth $100 billion a year, they pay very low wages and rely on extensive child labor. Our team found child labour in the field.


Some Ivorian forests we studied saw improvements, with deforestation rates going down. The top performers included the forest authorities protecting Tai, Nzo, Semien, Fransobi, Port Gauthier, Rapides Grah, Dassioko Sud and Nord, with Haute Dono and Bolo Ouest seeing the strongest positive changes of any area.

Unfortunately, other Ivorian forests saw things actually get worse, not better. Despite the promises made by industry and government, as this photo essay demonstrates in Goin Debe and Cavaly, the deforestation rates rose. Other poor-performing protected areas were Mont Kourabahi and Niouniourou Bloc Deux. But Cavaly Mont Sante (similar name but different protected area) stood out far and away as the worst of all. Tragically, even the national park designation was not enough to save Mont Peko, where deforestation rates rose as well.


Farmers hack down the smaller trees with machetes, but the oldest are too large to chop. They are burned instead; like this ancient giant we walked past, whose base has been charred by an illegal fire.


The Ivorian and Ghanaian governments have clearly failed to clamp down on this ongoing deforestation, and companies, despite their public commitments, have continued to buy cocoa from suppliers connected to deforestation. While companies and local authorities have taken some actions to limit deforestation, and some areas saw improvements, we nonetheless documented that farmers who engaged in deforestation for cocoa were still able to openly sell their cocoa without repercussions.


Deforestation in Ghana from 2001-2017. Red dots represent forest loss.

Deforestation in Ghana from November 2017-2018.

To assess the impact of the Cocoa and Forests Initiative, we conducted analysis of remote sensing data across national parks and other protected areas in the cocoa-growing region in Ghana too.

This shows new tree cover loss in Ghana’s cocoa region in 2018. Ghana made tremendous progress this past year in mobilizing to end deforestation for cocoa, but they have a long way to go. Most of their forests are already gone. And satellite mapping shows that deforestation for cocoa is still continuing.


 

A year ago, we were all filled with hope when Prince Charles, Initiatief Duurzame Handel, and the World Cocoa Foundation helped industry and governments pledge to do better. Clearly key actors are failing and have not kept their promises. However, there is still room for optimism. Some authorities and companies have already gotten on the right track, proving that solutions are within are grasp. We can all do better. It’s not too late.


The future is in all of our hands.

Take action now.


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