Reports

Tesco’s meat problem


Tesco's meat problem

Britain’s largest supermarket chain, Tesco sells a lot of meat – hundreds of millions of chickens a year alone. Three weeks ago, Tesco produced a new set of requirements for its meat suppliers to try and address the massive environmental consequences of those meat sales, starting with the soy-based animal feed used to fatten chicken, pigs and cows for its own-brand meat and dairy offer.

The long overdue update has been produced following campaign efforts from Mighty Earth and Greenpeace UK – with consumers calling on the company to drop the worst forest destroyers in its supply chain.

Meat has outsized environmental consequences. Raising meat produces more climate pollution, fouls more drinking water, and requires more land for livestock and feed globally than all other food crops combined - for a fraction of the nutritional value.

But the single most acute environmental consequence is the bulldozing and burning of millions of acres of rainforest and other ecosystems to make way for industrial animal feed plantations and cattle ranches.

There has been more land in the Amazon and Cerrado Biomes of Brazil bulldozed for soy plantations than the entire land mass of Israel or Slovenia in just 11 years.

Unless companies like Tesco take strict action, it could get worse very quickly: proposed legislation in front of the Brazilian legislature, which if passed, puts at least 19.6 million hectares of public land in the Amazon at risk from large agribusiness companies trying to grab land to make more industrial feed and meat.

Within this context, the new requirements for Tesco meat suppliers sourcing from South America to have a strict no-deforestation, no-conversion and no-human rights abuse policy – based on a ‘cut-off date’, a biome-wide agreement and improved transparency in sourcing represents an improvement over the status quo.

However, unless the details are strengthened, Tesco shoppers will still be eating chicken and pork connected to the destruction of the rainforest and tropical savannah in Brazil for some time.

Supplier impunity on deforestation 

Tesco’s policy, in essence, allows agribusinesses that supply animal feed to continue driving deforestation with impunity while supplying the company. In particular:

  • Tesco fails to spell out how or when it will suspend meat suppliers sourcing soy animal feed from companies that drive the destruction of the Amazon and the Cerrado in Brazil, nor how they will exclude traders from their supply chain complicit in deforestation. For example, even with a recent policy commitment to zero deforestation, US agribusiness behemoth Cargill will accept or condone deforestation in its supply chain until at least 2030 – giving industrial meat interests nine years to bulldoze as much land as possible.
  • The scheme allows suppliers to purchase ‘mass balance’ credits or certificates if they are unable to prove that their soy is either from deforestation-free areas or from a ‘gold standard’ certified source of supply. This discredited approach is a ‘get out of jail free’ card because it could inadvertently support deforestation by allowing Tesco suppliers like Cargill to buy soy from recently destroyed forests and savannahs, and then buy credits from land that was cleared some time ago. This type of approach has also been criticised for lacking transparency and undermining traceability.
  • Finally, while the policy pays lip service to the Accountability Framework Initiative (AFI), it fails to advance the principle of ‘group level accountability’ for deforestation into practice. The AFI is currently advancing guidance that bestows responsibility on traders for land conversion that happens on any farms owned by the farmers supplying them, rather than just the farms directly in their supply chain. At present, the Tesco policy allows traders such as Cargill to sell Tesco suppliers certified no-deforestation animal feed, while continuing to buy from farmers that are razing forests in other parts of its supply chain.

A tangible way forward

We have seen whole industries change when they enforce robust policies on suppliers engaged in deforestation, pollution, or human rights abuse.

Many consumer facing companies have adopted strict policies on palm oil, for instance, that simply required suppliers not to engage in deforestation, with no excuses, no credits, and no greenwashing. Those policies were a key driver of a massive environmental success: deforestation for palm oil is down more than 90%.

Until Tesco and other companies adopt similarly strong policies and cut ties with supplier companies that are driving the destruction of Brazil’s forests – such as JBS, Cargill and Bunge, its meat is still going to be driving environmental destruction on an enormous scale.

These policies are simple, clear and affordable: to comply, all producers must do is produce meat and beef on the 1.6 billion acres of previously deforested land instead of expanding on the agricultural frontier.

That should just be the easy first step, instead of something we must fight for. But if Tesco is going to provide truly sustainable protein, it needs to go further:

  1. Help shift consumers to sustainable, plant-based diets. As a leading retailer in the UK, Tesco has a role to play in influencing consumer behaviour towards these diets which begin to tackle the demand-drivers of deforestation.
  2. Support strong forest protections in producer countries, while promoting the use of existing agricultural or degraded land for soy production. Advocacy by Tesco and other supermarkets when forest laws are under threat can help in this regard, as can cutting commercial links with suppliers that support deregulation of forest protections.
  1. Work with others to ensure full transparency and traceability in meat from farm to product; ensure that all soy entering the market is from ‘clean’ suppliers and move forward the principle of ‘group-level responsibility’ for deforestation - meaning that companies cannot deforest in some parts of their operation while selling ‘sustainable soy’ simultaneously to other parts of the market.

While Tesco shows positive intent through its new policy, action in these three areas would prove that the company is serious in tackling the drivers of deforestation, rather than allowing its suppliers to cut down forests on one hand, while reaping the benefits of sustainability certification and credits on the other.

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.

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.

New Mighty Earth Report Finds Agroforestry Drives Sustainability in Rubber Supply Chain


Switching over from monocultures to more diverse systems of rubber agroforestry can drive sustainability in global rubber supply chains and help tackle climate change, finds a new report published by Mighty Earth today (see the summary here).

Mighty Earth’s report, co-authored by three leading academic scientists, found that rubber agroforestry – a set of mixed farming systems involving the production of rubber trees alongside a variety of other plants, crops and livestock – has multiple benefits for smallholder farmers, biodiversity and the environment, including:

    • Better support for smallholder incomes and livelihoods
    • Better support for smallholder food and nutrition security
    • Social advantages for smallholder farmers and rubber tappers
    • Improved soil health and water quality, and other beneficial environmental, biodiversity and climate resiliency outcomes.

The new study for Mighty Earth assessed over 800 peer-reviewed scientific reports and papers on rubber agroforestry worldwide and was conducted by a team from the Global Agroforestry Network (GAN). Natural rubber – which is used in products from tires to condoms – is predominantly grown in the tropics in Asia. About 90% of natural rubber is produced by smallholder family households, largely in monoculture systems where rubber trees occupy all the available farmland.

However, monoculture rubber poses increasing environmental and climate problems, including widespread pollution and degradation of soils and water resources, rampant deforestation, habitat loss and ecosystem destruction, as well as risks to rubber tree health from disease, pests and drought, plus growing vulnerability to climate change. In addition, smallholder households face potentially catastrophic threats to their livelihoods due to fluctuations in global rubber prices.

Drawing on a geographically diverse set of studies on low-input rubber agroforestry and intercropping systems, ranging from China to Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, India and Cote d’Ivoire, the authors reveal the multiple livelihood, environmental and climate benefits of rubber agroforestry, and highlight the need for greater support and incentives from Governments, the rubber industry, researchers and civil society to accelerate the widespread scale-up of agroforestry through smallholder farmer-to-farmer networks.

Please find a GPSNR report launch webinar and slide deck presentation on Mighty Earth's agroforestry report findings.

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Notes: The report, “Rubber Agroforestry, Feasibility at Scale” was authored by:

  • Maria Wang Mei Hua, Grantham Centre for Sustainable Futures and Department of Animal and Plant Sciences, University of Sheffield, UK
  • Dr Eleanor Warren-Thomas, School of Natural Sciences, Bangor University, UK
  • Associate Professor Dr. Thomas Cherico Wanger, Sustainability, Agriculture & Technology, Westlake University, China; Agroecology, University of Göttingen, Germany
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  

Retailer Scorecard 2021


Easter is one of the biggest chocolate buying seasons. Mighty Earth and the National Wildlife Federation in the USA and Be Slavery Free in the Netherlands and Australia; assessed retailers from around the world on their contribution to driving positive change in the chocolate and cocoa industry.  Brands and processors were ranked separately in an earlier release.

The retailers selected, 36 in all, are some of the largest and most influential in Europe and the UK, the US, Brazil, Australia/New Zealand, and other chocolate consuming countries. Those retailers selected for this ranking have a choice: they can either take a large toll on the farmers and ecosystems in cocoa growing regions around the world or make a big positive impact for people and the planet.

Retailers and supermarkets make the most money in the chocolate value chain-- taking at least 40% of the price consumers pay for a bar of chocolate. These super beneficiaries need to own their responsibility for the cocoa sector and not just for their own branded products but also for the procurement policies for the other chocolates products they stock.  The potential for a truly industry wide, farmer to consumer, sustainability movement exists.

But many of these retailers have thus far refused to engage in relevant ethical trade platforms such as the Retailer Cocoa Coalition or the Cocoa and Forest Initiative or opened up to engage more broadly with civil society on their cocoa supply chains.

Some of these same retailers have made progress with their commitment to sustainability in other commodities-- albeit spotty, but have been slow to extend such measures to cocoa.

Retailers like Rewe, Ahold Delhaize, Coop Switzerland, Sainsbury’s, Woolworths (Australia) Aldi Süd and Aldi Nord stand out when compared to their colleagues. Supermarkets in the US need to do much more to ensure the sustainability of their cocoa products they sell.

You can find the full methodology on the Retailer’s Easter Scorecard here.

Complicit: An Investigation into Deforestation at Michelin’s Royal Lestari Utama Project in Sumatra, Indonesia


This report alleges that Michelin, the world’s largest tire company, was complicit in and covered up industrial-scale deforestation of over 2,500 hectares of rainforest in the run-up to the launch of its flagship  ‘eco-friendly’ sustainable natural rubber joint venture project in Sumatra, Indonesia. The project, undertaken in partnership with a company described as ‘within the Barito Pacific Group’, is currently seeking an additional $120 million in investment from green financiers.

Read the full report here and find the press release below.
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Report: Michelin Covered Up Industrial Deforestation by its Indonesian Partner in “Eco-Friendly” Rubber Venture

New report claims world’s largest tire company currently seeking millions of additional dollars from investors to restore forest that its own business partner destroyed

Available in Français, Bahasa Indonesia

WASHINGTON, DC – A new report released by environmental campaign group Mighty Earth alleges that Michelin, the world’s largest tire company, was complicit in and covered up industrial-scale deforestation of over 2,500 hectares of rainforest in the run-up to the launch of its flagship  ‘eco-friendly’ sustainable natural rubber joint venture project in Sumatra, Indonesia. The project, undertaken in partnership with a company described as ‘within the Barito Pacific Group’, is currently seeking an additional $120 million in investment from green financiers.

Evidence in the new report shows some 2,590 ha of rainforest – over seven times the size of New York’s Central Park, or equivalent to the size of central Paris – was industrially deforested by subsidiaries of Michelin’s Indonesian joint venture partner in a 33-month period to January 2015 to make way for natural rubber plantations in the flagship rubber, wildlife and conservation-focused Royal Lestari Utama (RLU) Project in Jambi, Sumatra. Of this total, Mighty Earth also found 1,298 ha of rainforest was industrially deforested in a Wildlife Conservation Area, and which is now planted with thousands of rubber trees under the RLU Project.

Situated adjacent to the Bukit Tigapuluh National Park in central Sumatra, these globally significant, wildlife and nature-rich tropical rainforests are home to two forest-dependent Indigenous communities – the Talang Mamak and Orang Rimba – and provide critical habitat for endangered Sumatran elephants, tigers and reintroduced orangutans.

France-based Michelin Group is the world’s largest tire company, and natural rubber is the key ingredient in the vehicle tires that it manufactures and sells worldwide. The RLU Project has since gone on to attract financing from Asia’s first $95 million corporate sustainability ‘Green bond’, as well as public funds from the Norwegian, UK and US governments, and is imminently slated to receive further financing from a second $120 million green bond.

“This is a major deforestation scandal,” says report author Alex Wijeratna, Campaign Director at Mighty Earth. “Our evidence shows thousands of hectares of wildlife-rich rainforests were industrially deforested in Jambi in the run-up to the agreement of the RLU Project in late 2014. Michelin knew about this terrible forest destruction, they didn’t do enough to stop it, and instead chose to provide green cover to the project in order to attract green bond investors that have since sunk millions of dollars into the scheme.”

Michelin publicly announced its 88,000-hectare joint venture RLU Project in May 2015, with an Indonesian company later officially described as ‘within the Barito Pacific Group’. At the time, Michelin said the Jambi concession area was “…ravaged by uncontrolled deforestation”, blaming outside culprits such as encroachers, migrants and organized criminal groups.

In contrast, Mighty Earth’s report alleges that it was Michelin’s joint venture partner itself – RLU’s subsidiary on the ground known as PT Lestari Asri Jaya (LAJ) – that perpetrated much of this destruction through industrial forest clearance, particularly within a block of the concession known as LAJ 4. The new publication, Complicit: An Investigation into Deforestation at Michelin’s Royal Lestari Utama Project in Sumatra, Indonesia, shows that, in April 2012, there were 3,966 hectares of intact forest covering almost the entire case study area within LAJ 4. By the time the RLU joint venture project began in January 2015, just 138 hectares of that forest remained. Analysis by Mighty Earth of high-resolution satellite images points to large-scale rubber planting replacing this natural forest.

Mighty Earth has been in talks with Michelin and RLU in Indonesia about its research in Jambi since September 2019, and has requested several key social and environmental due diligence documents and reports conducted prior to the project launch to be made publicly available. The companies have repeatedly turned down Mighty Earth’s requests, despite the fact that public funds have been used to back the project.

The campaign group did manage to view one of these confidential pre-venture assessments, and insist it confirms that Michelin was told what was happening on the ground in Jambi at the time.

“Mighty Earth has seen a confidential report commissioned by Michelin that shows the company knew deforestation in the PT LAJ concessions was partly the result of land clearing carried out by PT LAJ itself,” says Wijeratna. “The report includes geo-tagged photos of LAJ bulldozers clearing land and forests next to the Bukit Tigapuluh National Park, but it’s unknown if Michelin ever shared this information with donors, funders, or green bond investors.”

“Public and private investors in these new so-called ‘green bonds’ or ‘sustainability bonds’ have so far pumped nearly $100 million into the RLU Project in Indonesia in good faith, and will soon be asked for $120 million more,” says Wijeratna. “We’re calling for an independent investigation to get to the bottom of the murky business during the run-up to this so-called green rubber project, and believe the second ‘green bond’ offering shouldn’t go ahead until all the facts about what happened in Jambi are in the public domain.”

The opaque due diligence and community consultation processes also continue to have ongoing social ramifications in Jambi. “Farmers reported land tenure conflicts with RLU’s local subsidiary on the ground,” says Fenna Otten from the University of Göttingen’s department of Human Geography, who conducted field research in nearby Muara Sekalo village in 2017. “Villagers said they had no choice but to leave their land to the company. They were pushed off and felt powerless. Michelin shouldn’t gain green bond finance and public praise for this sham of a sustainable development project.”

In mid-September, local communities again protested what they say are unfair landgrabs carried out to establish the RLU project, holding a demonstration in Tebo, Jambi.

“You can’t stop deforestation and land grabbing unless you know who’s responsible,” says Wijeratna. “It’s part of a broader transparency problem with Michelin and the rubber industry as a whole. Michelin won’t even reveal what companies it sources its rubber from. If Michelin is to live up to its stated zero-deforestation and human rights aspirations, it needs to come clean about what happened in Jambi, and use its industry leadership position to become a champion for greater transparency across the whole rubber supply chain.”

 

Smoke in Porto Vehlo

Fanning the Flames: The Corporations Destroying the Amazon and Worsening the COVID-19 Pandemic


September 2020

A new analysis by environmental campaign organization Mighty Earth, working in collaboration with MapHubs, links meat companies JBS, Marfrig, and Minerva to the fires raging in the Amazon and highlights how these fires are likely exacerbating the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on local communities. The report maps the fires intentionally set in Brazil this year and overlays local company supply chain information to understand which companies are driving the destruction. Mighty Earth’s analysis also highlights how these fires are likely exacerbating the impacts of COVID-19. The three hotspot municipalities reported a combined 47,988 cases as of August 16, 2020, and an infection rate more than twice the national average by total population. 

Read the full report here.

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Key elements for an agreement between the EU and cocoa-producing countries, to ensure sustainability in the cocoa sector


The paper outlines a vision for a new partnership agreement between the European Union and the governments of Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire to tackle deforestation, poverty and social issues in the cocoa sector. It outlines what an agreement should look like, how it should be negotiated, who should be involved, and how it could work with expected new EU laws to address imported deforestation and human rights abuses.
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Ranking Soy Traders’ Performance on Deforestation


September 2020

Mighty Earth’s new report examines the sustainability policies and performance of six of the largest soy traders (Louis Dreyfus Company, Archer-Daniels-Midland Company, Amaggi, COFCO International, Cargill, and Bunge) to determine which traders have the most – and least – land impacts and land rights violations in their supply chain. The analysis is intended to illustrate to buyers, including consumer goods manufacturers and retailers, that certain traders offer less risk and less environmental and social impacts compared to their peers.

Read the full report here.

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Agroforestry in the cocoa sector: A need for ambitious collaborative landscape approaches


August 2020

Cocoa agroforestry systems can bring a wide range of ecological benefits; biodiversity con-servation of ora and fauna, carbon sequestration, preserving and strengthening soil mois-ture and fertility, contributing to pest control, and microclimatic control such as stimulating rainfall, and many other benefits.

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How the Sausage Gets Made


May 2020

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

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The Coronavirus Climate Profiteers


April 2020

Most people see a global pandemic that is killing tens of thousands of people. But many of the world’s worst polluting companies have used the crisis as an excuse to extract tens of billions of dollars in new government subsidies and slash environmental regulations. They are doing so in ways that will make people more vulnerable to coronavirus and increase the likelihood of future pandemics. A lot of people are understandably furious about small-time coronavirus grifters, like the guy hoarding Purell in his garage. That’s bad, but it’s nothing compared to the cynicism and public health hazards created by leading coronavirus profiteers and their enablers.

Read the full report here.

Easter Consumer Report 2020


April 2020

Mighty Earth teamed up with Green America and Be Slavery free to publish the 2020 Easter Scorecard. This guide breaks down commitments and policies from chocolate companies and cocoa traders.

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A Bridge Too Far? Social and Environmental Concerns in Bridgestone’s Liberian Rubber Plantation and A Plan for Remediation


February 2020

New investigation documenting serious labor and environmental concerns at the single largest rubber plantation on the planet – the Firestone Rubber Plantation in Harbel, Liberia.

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Sumitomo Corporation’s Dirty Energy Trade


December 2019

New report exposes how Japan’s policies are empowering a major corporation that embraces and invests in dirty energy sources like coal and biomass. Download

Cocoa and African Deforestation


December 2019

New white paper analyzes the Cocoa Forest Initiative’s shortcomings and provides suggestions for improvement.

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Joint Position Paper on the EU’s policy and regulatory approach to cocoa


December 2019

Position paper calls on the European Union to strengthen human rights and environmental due diligence requirements of companies in global cocoa supply chains.

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