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Brazil meat giant JBS pledges to axe suppliers linked to deforestation

Campaigners welcome turnaround after pressure from investors but say 2025 deadline too long to resolve problems.

Brazilian meat giant JBS said on Wednesday that it will monitor its entire supply chain by 2025, including problematic “indirect supplier” Amazon farms it currently has no control over, some of which have been linked to illegal deforestation.

“As a company we are assuming our responsibility to be a transformation agent for society, to be a catalyst. To build together with everyone a better world, a more sustainable Amazon and a better Brazil,” said JBS global CEO Gilberto Tomazoni in a virtual launch of the JBS Green Platform.

The announcement marks a turnaround for the world’s biggest meat company. Environmentalists saw it as a positive step, but some said the deadline was too long to resolve such an urgent issue.

Cattle ranching is the biggest driver of deforestation in the Amazon and Brazil has come under increasing pressure from international investors and other countries over rising devastation and fires. With Wednesday’s announcement, JBS is the third Brazilian meat company to begin responding to the pressure.

The company said its Green Platform will use blockchain technology and cattle movement documents, called GTAs (used for sanitary control), and suppliers that fail to cooperate and comply will be blocked from selling to the company. It will initially roll out the platform in Mato Grosso state, which has Brazil’s biggest cattle herd.

“What we are doing will impact the life of future generations in a relevant way,” Tomazoni said.

JBS will invest a minimum of £35m and match other donations to a total of £71m to create a Fund for the Amazon to foster sustainable development in communities in the region. One of Brazil’s leading climate scientists, Carlos Nobre, will serve on the fund’s consultative council. “If it works, it will reduce deforestation, because 80-90% of first deforestation is for cattle pasture,” Nobre said of the new tracing scheme. “This will have to be evaluated.”

The industry’s problems with Amazon suppliers are well documented and were exposed in a 2009 report by Greenpeace. After its release, Brazilian meat companies cut deals with Greenpeace and federal prosecutors and set up complex systems to monitor farms that sell directly to their slaughterhouses.

But in Brazil few cattle farms handle the entire life cycle of their animals, instead sourcing cattle birthed or fattened on other farms – the so-called “indirect suppliers”. And despite promising to monitor these indirect suppliers by 2011 in the deal signed two years earlier with Greenpeace, meat companies JBS, Minerva and Marfrig have so far failed to do so. Since July 2019, five investigations by the Guardian, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, Brazilian agency Repórter Brasil, Greenpeace and Amnesty International have linked JBS suppliers to illegal deforestation.

With pressure mounting, major companies have complained to Brazilian ambassadors and met with Brazil’s vice-president, Hamilton Mourão, in charge of its Amazon Council, and congress leaders.

Read the full Guardian article here: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/sep/23/brazil-meat-giant-jbs-pledges-to-axe-suppliers-linked-to-deforestation

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