Cease Investment in Illegal Amazon Deforestation

The Amazon rainforest, dubbed the lungs of Earth, is crucial for the ecosystem of our entire planet. It plays a vital role in driving weather patterns and sequestering greenhouse gasses. Without the Amazon, it would be difficult, if not impossible, for countries to hold global warming below 2 degrees Celsius compared with preindustrial levels, as called for in the Paris climate Agreement" [1]. The fate of the Amazon is the fate of planet Earth.

The current Brazilian government is doing everything in its power to accelerate the destruction of the Amazon rainforest, giving agribusiness corporations free rein to destroy large swaths of the Amazon in pursuit of profits. Under President Bolsonaro, deforestation has already spiked 54% in less than a year [2]. As we are currently witnessing, massive fires in the Amazon are causing air quality problems and exacerbating the climate crisis due to Bolsonaro's cozy relationship with giant agribusiness.

International financial institutions have a tremendous amount of leverage over Brazil's agribusiness sector, as they provide the financing and investment that sustains their illegal deforestation activities. Brazilian businesses are dependent on foreign financing, particularly cattle and soy companies, and "this dependence makes the Bolsonaro regime’s brutal Amazon agenda responsive to market and policy shifts from international companies and financiers attuned to the human rights and climate risks of operating in the Brazilian Amazon" [2].

This is particularly timely given that the CEOs of many financial institutions recently signed the Business Roundtable letter redefining the purpose of a corporation and committing to lead their companies for the benefit of all stakeholders – customers, employees, suppliers, communities and shareholders [3]. Now is the time to follow through.

Large banks and investment funds must recognize that with their great power to influence Brazil's agribusiness community comes great responsibility. We ask financial institutions to immediately suspend all financing to agribusiness firms active in Brazil until and unless you can take longer term, systemic actions to:

  • Require all agribusiness companies with whom you do business to ensure public traceability of supply chains to the point of origin and commit to ending deforestation in their supply chains.
  • Require all agribusiness companies with whom you do business to publicly disclose ESG risks related to deforestation and land rights, including any investigations, indictments or fines issued for deforestation and/or land grabbing.
  • Require all agribusiness companies with whom you do business to adopt and implement a zero tolerance policy for attacks on environment and human rights defenders.
  • Work with civil society to monitor agribusiness companies operating in sensitive forest ecosystems for any evidence of deforestation, and take immediate action to suspend business in cases of non-compliance.
  • Support shareholder resolutions and public policy efforts that advance supply chain transparency, respect for human rights, forest protection, and compliance with the Paris Climate Accord.

We urge financial institutions to terminate their relationships with Brazilian agribusinesses that fail to adhere to these policies. This is a global issue, and the decisions made right now will have monumental consequences for the entire planet far into the future.

[1] https://www.washingtonpost.com/weather/2019/08/21/amazonian-rainforest-is-ablaze-turning-day-into-night-brazils-capital-city/

[2] https://amazonwatch.org/assets/files/2019-complicity-in-destruction-2.pdf

[3] https://www.businessroundtable.org/business-roundtable-redefines-the-purpose-of-a-corporation-to-promote-an-economy-that-serves-all-americans