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Investors’ Promises to Stop Deforestation in the Amazon Have Fallen Short, Report Finds

Words by Leon Kaye
Deforestation

Last year was a brutal time for deforestation in Brazil and the greater Amazonian rainforest, and this year became even worse. Estimates have suggested that the total amount of forest acreage lost to wildfires during 2020 is on course to exceed what was destroyed last year by well over 10 percent.

And despite evidence suggesting that stronger rainforest preservation efforts result in a net positive for the global economy, deforestation has continued at a faster rate despite the global pandemic.

Last year, a coalition of more than 200 investors called for global action to stop deforestation. The Principles for Responsible Investment and Ceres coordinated that effort, which called on companies to make public their deforestation policies and follow up on their progress with complete transparency.

But one year later, an assessment that the nonprofit Global Canopy recently carried out found a completely different reality. According to that group’s research, only 14 percent of those 235 investor groups that signed last year’s call to action have taken such steps to halt deforestation. In a nutshell, we have a situation where the pot is calling the kettle black — and the key drivers of deforestation in the Amazon have largely stayed the same as well.

“The financial sector is fueling deforestation in Brazil through their investments in companies in beef and soy supply chains. Investors raised the alarm last year because of the financial risks linked to deforestation,” said Niki Mardas, Global Canopy’s executive director, in an emailed statement to TriplePundit. “The situation this year is far worse, and although some investors are showing real leadership, more action is needed across the sector.”

Global Canopy’s analysis found that of those 33 investment groups that have taken the steps to formulate a clear deforestation policy, only 21 of them have taken the necessary steps to ensure their portfolios are accounting for commodities that put forests at risk. Further, 12 of the 33 groups have disclosed policies for timber and palm oil, but not for soy and cattle — the two commodities that many critics of Brazil’s land management say are the main drivers of deforestation across Latin America’s largest nation.

In fairness, any pressure put on Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, is akin to taking down a brick wall with a pen knife. Yet despite ongoing support the president has received from much of the business community, there is evidence some investors and business leaders fear the battering of Brazil’s image and destruction of its land presents too high of a price to pay. In August, an alliance of Brazilian companies and business organizations urged Brazil’s federal government to take stronger measures against the illegal deforestation that’s occurring across the country.

Image credit: Marcus Dall Col/Unsplash

Leon Kaye headshotLeon Kaye

Leon Kaye has written for TriplePundit since 2010, and became its Executive Editor in 2018. He's based in Fresno, CA, from where he happily explores California’s stellar Central Coast and the national parks in the Sierra Nevadas. He's lived in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay, and has traveled to over 70 countries. He's an alum of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California.

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