Efforts to tackle deforestation in the Cerrado have been given a boost with 23 global companies signing up to support the Cerrado Manifesto. But, if the Cerrado is to be protected, there is a need to engage and put pressure on the majority of companies still to make any kind of commitment.
The manifesto calls for immediate action by members of the private sector to protect this vitally important region and biodiversity hot spot through adopting effective policies that eliminate deforestation and the conversion of native ecosystems from their supply chains and investments.
According to WWF, between 2013 and 2015 an area of almost 19,000 square kilometres was lost to soy production and other agricultural activities. Equivalent to an area the size of Greater London disappearing every two months.
The 23 global companies, including major retailers and food chains such as Tesco, Marks & Spencer, Carrefour, McDonald’s, Nestle, and Unilever have recognised the critical importance of the Cerrado and committed to work closely with other key industries and governments to halt deforestation and habitat loss in the Cerrado.
These companies are important actors in global forest risk commodity supply chains; 18 of the 23 signatory companies are included in the Forest 500 due to their exposure to soy in their supply chains.
To assess their readiness to implement the Cerrado Manifesto commitment we used the Forest 500 to evaluate the effectiveness of their policies to eliminate deforestation from their supply chains. The analysis focused on soy policies as soy accounts for 90% of the croplands in the Cerrado and is a major driver of deforestation. The results show that of these 18 companies, nearly 80% already have specific policies to procure sustainably produced soy*, including measures that apply to the Cerrado.
In comparison, of all the 133 companies linked to soy that have been assessed by the Forest 500 in preparation for the 2017 rankings, only 32% have sustainable policies in place.
Having strong policies is an important first step, but implementing them is a challenge. For instance, only four of the 18 companies’ policies contain measures to develop and implement soy-specific traceability systems – fundamental in verifying that the commodity was produced sustainably.
This is where transparency tools like Trase are critical. Trase maps the trade flows of soy from the municipalities where it is produced through ports and traders, to the countries that import the soy. It can support companies, governments and civil society to identify risks and monitor whether they are meeting sustainability commitments.
The private sector has a critical role to play in the future of the Cerrado. Under Brazil’s Forest Code and current environmental laws, roughly 40 million hectares could be legally deforested.
Support for the Cerrado Manifesto is therefore welcome, but swift action and improvements in reporting and disclosure are required by all the companies linked to soy supply chains.
* More information on the companies’ performance will be provided early next month with the launch of the 2017 Forest 500 Report
This piece was written by Andre Vasconcelos
Image: Cerrado in the Chapada dos Veadeiros National Park (a Protected Area in Brazil)