Green groups & investors push for urgent action on deforestation and human rights abuses from Bunge, one of the world’s largest commodity tradersA new briefing for Bunge’s shareholders ahead of the company’s Annual General Meeting urges them to vote for action to prevent human rights and environmental abuse
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Friends of the Earth US and Global Witness are urging shareholders in one of the world’s largest agri–commodity traders to vote in favour of tackling deforestation at the company’s upcoming AGM.
Bunge Limited, a global commodity trader headquartered in the United States, is one of the biggest soy players in Brazil’s Cerrado, a vast biodiverse savannah and a vital carbon sink: in 2018, the company exported nearly 16 million tons of soy from the area.
Yet in the Cerrado, and around the world, Bunge is failing to mitigate or prevent deforestation and human rights abuses by companies in its supply chain (see Notes to Editor below). Bunge’s deforestation risk is far higher than any other commodity trader: in Brazil alone, Bunge’s soy operations were linked through its supply chain to deforestation in an area four-fifths the size of Chicago between 2015 and 2018. The company was also linked to 16,942 fire alerts in 2020.
Such concerns have led a group of institutional investors led by Green Century Funds to file a resolution on Bunge’s contributions to soy-driven deforestation in the Cerrado ahead of its AGM on May 5th. Friends of the Earth US and Global Witness today launch a joint briefing for shareholders urging them to vote in favour of the resolution.
Gaurav Madan, Senior Forests and Land Campaigner at Friends of the Earth US said, “Bunge’s operations through its supply chains drive some of the worst impacts of the climate crisis: rampant deforestation, increased carbon emissions, unprecedented biodiversity loss, and an epidemic of violence against local communities and land defenders. Investors should not only vote for increased disclosure and climate action at Bunge, but also take the necessary steps to ensure their portfolios are not pushing the planet to a tipping point.”
The role of global corporations in driving deforestation and displacing, harassing and criminalising indigenous and marginalized communities came into renewed focus over the past year, as global forest clearances increased sharply and a record number of environmental defenders were murdered.
In November 2020, major corporations including Tesco, Walmart, Unilever and McDonald’s urged Bunge to commit to the ‘Cerrado Manifesto,’ asking the company to stop sourcing soy, directly or indirectly, from areas cleared in the Cerrado after 2020. Bunge has failed to make that commitment.
In a statement to Global Witness, Bunge stated its “2025 non-deforestation commitment is industry-leading in terms of its ambition, scale, and progress” and that the deforestation risks in its supply chain are “small and localized.” Bunge stated that it was an active member of several leading industry initiatives to tackle deforestation. It did not make any reference to action the company is taking on human rights abuses in its supply chain.
As this briefing makes clear, Bunge needs to consider its impact on people and planet, and the growing evidence of its links to human rights abuses and large-scale deforestation. Beyond the environmental and human rights risks if Bunge fails to act, the company will also fall foul of increasing regulatory risks as a growing number of legislative efforts to hold companies accountable for their supply chains advance in the US and Europe.
The risks of inaction – for Bunge, for its shareholders and for the planet– are growing.
Notes to editor
According to Trase Finance and Chain Reaction Research, in Brazil, Bunge’s soy operations were linked to at least 48,725 hectares – four-fifths the size of Chicago – of absolute deforestation risk between 2015 and 2018 and to 16,942 fire alerts in 2020. For further details on how deforestation risk is measured visit https://trase.finance/methodology
Contacts: Gaurav Madan, Senior Forests and Lands Campaigner, Friends of the Earth US [email protected], +1 240-850-9621
Ali Hines, Senior Campaigner, Land & Environmental Defenders Team, Global Witness, [email protected], +44 (0)7738 712955