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Amazon Watch calls on agribusiness companies & investors to take a stand against the President of Brazil's threats to the Amazon; includes co. responses

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Company non-response
13 February 2019

BlackRock did not respond

Company non-response
13 February 2019

Vanguard declined to respond

NGO rejoinder
14 February 2019

Amazon Watch rejoinder

Author: Amazon Watch

We were pleased to see the responses of Bunge and Archer Daniels Midland to our New York Times op-ed. However, the companies appear to have overlooked our key arguments and glossed over legitimate concerns. The op-ed contends that not only the corporate social responsibility policies and commitments of major international commodity traders and financial institutions, but also the rigorous application of these commitments, will play a fundamental role in either enabling or moderating the behavior of the Bolsonaro administration.... [T]he supply chains of Bunge and Archer Daniels Midland are exposed to significant environmental and human rights risks... We believe that the behavior of leading commodity traders and financial institutions has the power to shape the comportment of their suppliers, ultimately sending signals to both Brazilian policymakers and local producers that the social and environmental rollbacks currently being enacted by Bolsonaro’s government will not be tolerated by international markets. Finally, we must state our disappointment with the failure of the financial institutions cited in our op-ed to respond. Vanguard, State Street and BlackRock all play a key role in bankrolling some of the worst actors operating in the Brazilian Amazon, and as a result have the responsibility to address public concern with the critiques raised in our article.

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Company non-response
14 February 2019

State Street declined to respond

Company response
15 February 2019

Archer Daniels Midland's response

Author: Archer Daniels Midland

... In regions at risk for deforestation and/or human rights violations, we are especially diligent in ensuring our operations meet strict codes of conduct. Contrary to the portrayal in the recent New York Times editorial by Leila Salazar-Lopez, ADM has worked for years to prevent forest loss, while protecting the human rights of people along the supply chain... [W]e have a Respect for Human Rights Policy, which protects the human rights of individuals along the agricultural value chain... Since 2006, we have been a signatory of the Amazon Soy Moratorium, and we are a founding member of the Soy Working Group. As such, we do not source from newly deforested areas in the Amazon published by INPE... ADM is also a member of the GTC—Grupo de Trabalho do Cerrado, or Cerrado Working Group—a multi- stakeholder initiative aiming to reduce deforestation in the shortest timeframe possible while promoting socio-economic development... Just as we are committed to finding innovative, new ways to feed the world’s growing population, we are committed to doing our part to protect the world’s natural resources.

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Company response
18 February 2019

Bunge's response

Author: Bunge

The 30 January OpEd in the New York Times, which alleged that agribusiness, and particularly soy, has been responsible for the destruction of forests in the Amazon does not paint an accurate or complete picture. Since 2006, the soy industry in Brazil has applied the Amazon Soy Moratorium, which restricts soy purchases to land cleared before 2008... A consortium of companies and NGOs, including Greenpeace, provides governance for the Moratorium.  According to the latest Moratorium report, only 1.4% of the soy grown in the Amazon Biome in 2017/18 was planted on land cleared in violation of the Moratorium.  Bunge blocks purchases from such farms.  We report our results publicly:  https://www.bunge.com/sustainability/gri-index. The OpEd does accurately state that Bunge has a commitment to eliminate deforestation from our value chains worldwide.  You can read more about our efforts in Brazil by reviewing our public updates:  https://www.bunge.com/sustainability/sustainable-agriculture.

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26 February 2019

Commentary: Bolsonaro wants to plunder the Amazon. Don’t let him.

Author: Leila Salazar-López, The New York Times

The rise of President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil has put the environment and human rights in peril. His promises to open the Amazon for business could result in huge deforestation... His threats to slash fundamental environmental and indigenous rights standards that help keep the Amazon standing are a threat to climate stability... Companies that accept his invitation to reap profit from Amazon destruction, and the financial institutions that provide the capital, will also bear great responsibility... Agribusiness... is a leading driver of forest loss and human-rights abuses in the Brazilian Amazon, and A.D.M. and Bunge are two of the largest soy traders in Brazil. 

Where would these powerful agribusiness companies get the capital they need to bulldoze deeper into the Amazon, if they should take Mr. Bolsonaro up on his offer to eliminate environmental protections? In no small part from American-based asset managers BlackRock, State Street and Vanguard, which are shareholders in all five of the largest publicly traded agribusiness companies operating in the Brazilian Amazon... This means they have the potential to exert pressure on the very companies that could either moderate or enable Mr. Bolsonaro’s threats to the future of the Amazon — and the climate... If these influential companies don’t take a clear and principled stand against Mr. Bolsonaro’s promises to open the Amazon for business, they will also bear responsibility for abetting his plunder of the world’s largest tropical rain forest.

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