Campaign group puts more pressure on JBS and Cargill to address deforestation

By Oliver Morrison

- Last updated on GMT


Related tags deforestation Jbs Cargill

The rapid clearance of forests and native vegetation to produce soy and beef for meat consumption continues, complains a new report from Mighty Earth.

That’s despite commitments for a decade from supermarkets and consumer goods companies to end deforestation associated with their supply chains, the campaign group said.

Figures from the Brazilian space institute INPE in November 2020 showed that at least 11,088 square-kilometres of rainforest in the Amazon was razed from August 2019 to July 2020 alone – the highest annual figure for more than a decade, said Mighty Earth.

It has just launched a Soy & Cattle Deforestation Tracker​, a monitoring system that links mega–farms responsible for large-scale deforestation and land clearance in the Brazilian Amazon and Cerrado to major soy traders and meatpackers.

The tracker combines near real-time satellite deforestation data with investigative supply chain research provided by research group Aidenvironment. 

Based on the tracker, the group ranked the top 10 major soy traders and meatpackers in Brazil based on the extent, severity, and response to the deforestation and ecosystem conversion in their supply chains. 

Two major agribusinesses – JBS and Cargill – were the worst-performing companies with respective scores of 1 and 25 out of 100 possible points, linked to 42,538 hectares and 61,260 hectares of conversion.

Asha Sharma, Director at Mighty Earth said: “Customers have the right to know how their food is produced and whether their purchases are associated with environmental destruction. Mighty Earth’s Soy & Cattle Deforestation Tracker shows the importance of publicly available monitoring systems that hold corporations accountable to their sustainability commitments and promises to their customers.”

Its recommendations for retailers to tackle deforestation and clearance linked to agribusiness traders in Brazil, include:

  • Ensure that the company has a strong no-deforestation and no-conversion policy that covers both beef and soy and all sourcing areas
  • Insert clauses in contracts of meat suppliers to specify deforestation-free conditionality in sourcing arrangements
  • Improve the traceability of the meat supply chain to include public information on sourcing arrangements for both direct and indirect suppliers
  • Use an escalation approach of engagement, retention, suspension and then exclusion for non-compliant suppliers and traders as recommended by the Accountability Framework Initiative. This approach should include immediate suspension for cases of repeated non-compliance.
  • Barring significant progress among the worst-performing traders, supermarkets should consider shifting sourcing preference to better performing companies on deforestation and clearance, as per Mighty Earth’s Tracker and Soy Trader Comparison. 

Mighty Earth also claims its research shows the links between supermarkets in the UK, the Netherlands, and France, where 7.1 million tonnes of soy were exported from Brazil in 2018. Brazil exported roughly 180,000 tonnes of beef to the European Union, according to latest available figures (2017).

JBS and Cargill are both taking steps to improve transparency and traceability in supply chains.

JBS suppliers are producing more while using less land​ in response to rising concerns about deforestation in Brazil, according to the company’s global chief executive, Gilberto Tomazoni.

He told a panel discussion to mark World Food Day that meat production in Brazil had tripled on a per hectare basis between 1990 and 2019. He added: “We can guarantee 100% of our direct suppliers do not deforest the Amazon​.”

Tomazoni said the company was committed to investing in technology in order to fight deforestation and climate change. Initiatives include a blockchain platform to monitor direct and indirect suppliers and investment into solar energy and water and waste schemes.

JBS Brazil reused 121,000 metric tonnes of waste to generate energy, over 9% more than the previous year, he said. Over 1 million tonnes of waste generated by the company was also reused, accounting for around 50% of all waste generated.

Cargill too is looking to solutions such as mobile money, GPS mapping and digital data collection to improve transparency in its supply chains​. Earlier this year, the company announced that it successfully mapped 100% of its Brazilian supply chain with georeferenced single points.

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