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Cargill commits to removing deforestation from supply chain by 2030

  • Cargill’s new forest policy is meant to satisfy commitments made by the company as a signatory to the New York Declaration on Forests.
  • The policy includes specific action plans for the sourcing of key commodities such as palm oil.
  • Environmentalists reacted by calling on the company to move faster to eliminate deforestation from its products.

Cargill announced a new forest policy yesterday to establish guidelines for removing deforestation from its supply chain. The policy is meant to satisfy commitments made by the company as part of the New York Declaration on Forests, signed at a UN Climate Summit in September last year, which aims to eliminate deforestation from the production of agricultural commodities by 2020 and achieve zero deforestation by 2030.

“Deforestation is a global issue, but a local challenge,” Paul Conway, Cargill vice chairman, said in a statement. “We’re committed to working with farmers, government, business, advocacy organizations and consumers to help craft and implement solutions tailored to the diverse landscapes we seek to protect.”

The policy includes specific action plans for the sourcing of key commodities such as palm oil, which has been one of the major sources of controversy for the company in recent years. The new policy, according to a statement the company sent out to mark its release, is designed “to ensure a sustainable palm supply chain in Indonesia and Malaysia.”

Cargill’s new policy, however, extends the company’s zero deforestation commitments to all of the commodities it produces. The company supports an extension of the Brazilian soy moratorium, for instance, which is currently set to expire next year, “until a viable alternative approach is reached.” It also plans to build a sustainable soy program in Paraguay “by mapping its total footprint in the country and working with government and public institutions to fully comply with the existing local forest code.”

There are action plans for other commodities as well. Cargill directly sources cotton and maize from more than 70,000 farmers in Zambia, and the company says it is committed to working with them to implement best practices in agriculture. It has also pledged to evaluate its sourcing of fiber for use in its packaging.

Conservationists and environmental advocates reacted to the announcement by calling on the company to move faster to eliminate deforestation from its products.

Cargill first stated its intention to stop doing business with palm oil suppliers in Indonesia and Malaysia associated with deforestation, degradation of carbon-rich peatlands and human rights violations in July 2014, but Gemma Tillack of the Rainforest Action Network says the company has made very little progress since then, and the new policy’s timeline is not nearly as ambitious as some of its competitors have committed to.

“The global climate and biodiversity crisis is happening now,” Tillack said in a statement. “We simply can not afford to accept the ongoing expansion of commodities that are driving the destruction of the world’s last intact rainforests. Cargill’s weak deadline of 2030 for cutting deforestation from its supply chains supports a ‘business as usual’ trajectory for most agricultural commodities.”

Tillack says that Cargill’s 2020 deadline for transforming its palm oil supply chain is also too slow. “Cargill needs to take swifter action, particularly given the rate of destruction in Southeast Asia and the extent of existing abuses in the palm oil sector,” she said.

Greenpeace’s Matt Daggett said that the deadline Cargill has set for itself to totally remove deforestation from its supply chain directly contradicted the commitment it made in New York last September. “Today’s new policy failed to uphold this commitment by establishing a weak 2030 deadline for most commodities, giving the company another ten years to profit from forest destruction,” Daggett said in a statement.

Still, Cargill’s forest policy is one of the most far-reaching yet to be established, as it covers the company’s entire global business empire. The real challenge, of course, is going from commitment to implementation on the ground, as critics have pointed out.