A new investigation by the NGO Global Witness has revealed a chain of participants from cattle ranchers through to multinational beef traders, international financiers, supermarkets and fast-food chains, and the governments that regulate them, are either destroying rainforests or are complicit in the destruction of the Amazon, with flawed audits undertaken by US and European auditors.
Stopping the destruction of rainforests to make way for pasture for beef production could reduce Brazil’s agricultural carbon emissions by 69%, help slow the sixth mass extinction of species and maintain a crucial carbon sink, vital for cooling our climate. In addition forest fires driven by deforestation continue to ravage the Amazon at record speed, with 25% more fires so far in 2020 than in the same period in 2019.
According to the report in just one Amazon state over three years, beef giants JBS, Marfrig and Minerva bought cattle from a combined 379 ranches containing 20,000 football fields worth of illegal deforestation, their investigation reveals. The companies failed to monitor other ranches with an estimated total of 140,000 football fields worth of deforestation, to check if they complied with their no-deforestation pledges.
Flawed assessments by international auditors DNV-GL and Grant Thornton claimed compliance with the companies’ pledges, but Global Witness can disclose serious doubts about their findings. World-famous financial institutions such as Deutsche Bank, Santander, Barclays, BNP Paribas, ING and HSBC continue bankrolling the firms despite many warnings of their failures.
The report set out recommendations to counter the absence of laws in consumer countries and financial hubs like Europe and challenge the behaviour of the US, banks, investors, credit rating agencies, importers and supermarkets who continue making money off devastating deforestation without facing any consequences.
When asked for comment, the beef companies justified their purchases from the ranches and denied any wrongdoing, which Global Witness in turn disputed (see full report for details). The ranchers concerned likewise denied the allegations.
In response to the allegations, the auditors DNV-GL and Grant Thornton claimed that restrictions on the audits may have excluded them from investigating the cases found by Global Witness. When asked for comment, all of the banks mentioned in the report defended their financial relationships with the meat traders.
Readers’ note: Global Witness is an international NGO established in 1993 that works to break the links between natural resource exploitation, conflict, poverty, corruption and human rights worldwide. Their report may be found at: https://www.globalwitness.org/en/campaigns/forests/beef-banks-and-brazilian-amazon/