The Amazon is important for the leather industry

Cows take up a lot of land
Cows take up a lot of land

One highlight of the summer has been the publication of the Greenpeace report “Slaughtering the Amazon” and the way the leather industry has reacted to. We had always thought that cutting down the rain forest was about illegal logging but it turns out that grabbing land for cattle ranching has actually been the number one culprit. This was not unknown as a number of refereed papers have been written about the issue, but it has taken the Greenpeace report to make people look up. The first tanning industry response was in the manner of “let’s have a chat after the holidays and when we all get back from Shanghai”, and the Brazilian industry approach was that everything was legal, followed after some pressure by an agreement to not take hides from land taken against the law. However the major footwear brands in the world, which had been made the focus of a sustained public relations and email campaign by Greenpeace, actually demanded a proper and prompt resolution. This has now been achieved. The latest announcement from Greenpeace is below and is a major milestone for the industry.

It is the first very prominent reminder to tanners that this is a small planet, and that cattle populations cannot expand forever. Cows use a lot of land. A thought for the future. And tanners had better be more aware of these bigger picture elements.

I have also added the links to the press releases of each of the companies who have already made moves. Other brands were also mentioned so expect future to see future announcements.

Brazilian Leather Giant Commits to Amazon Cattle Moratorium Following Industry Pressure

Tough new sourcing policies from Clarks and others said to be instrumental in decision

13th August, 2009

One of the world’s largest leather suppliers, and Brazil’s second-largest beef exporter today backed Greenpeace’s call for a moratorium on the purchase of cattle from farms involved in new deforestation in the Amazon with immediate effect.

Bertin’s announcement follows tough new policy statements from shoe retailers such as Clarks, Nike, Timberland, Geox and Adidas, in response to a Greenpeace report entitled Slaughtering the Amazon, which was released in June.

The report traced leather, beef and other cattle products from ranches involved in the destruction of the Amazon Rainforest back to top brands’ supply chains.

The cattle giant now joins Marfrig, the fourth-largest producer of beef and beef products in the world, which adopted a similar commitment in July.

“Bertin’s decision should pave the way for the modernisation of the Brazilian cattle industry”, said Sarah Shoraka, Greenpeace Forests campaigner.

“Given the sheer size of both Bertin and Marfrig’s operations, this commitment will have real impact on driving down Amazon deforestation and greenhouse gas emissions. Greenpeace will closely monitor the moratorium’s implementation to ensure its success”, said Shoraka.

In the next 180 days, Bertin will register and map all fattening farms which supply cattle directly to the company. For the rest of the supply chain, including rearing and nursery farms, Bertin believes that it will require two-years to implement a traceability system from farms to its slaughterhouses and processing facilities.

The company will also ensure it is not buying cattle from indigenous and protected areas or from farms linked to slave labour, land conflicts and land grabbing.

Marfrig and Bertin’s commitment to end Amazon deforestation has isolated Brazilian JBS-Friboi, the world’s largest producer and global exporter of processed beef. Contrary to its competitors, JBS-Friboi is staying silent on the issue and is expanding into the Amazon having rented several new facilities north of Mato Grosso State, an area which has the greatest rate of cattle ranching expansion and deforestation in the Amazon.

“JBS-Friboi must accept its responsibilities and stop fuelling Amazon destruction. It needs to join these companies in protecting the rainforest now,” said Shoraka.

Brazil’s entire cattle sector urgently needs to follow the soya industry’s example and commit to a moratorium on expansion into newly deforested areas. Both the federal and state governments must ensure this is possible by mapping, registering and monitoring rural properties, helping the private sector to fulfil its corporate liabilities. Cattle ranching is the biggest driver of Amazon rainforest destruction and contributes to making Brazil the fourth largest climate polluter in the world.

Fernando Bertin, CEO of Bertin, S.A. said:

“Environmental responsibility is increasingly relevant for a company like ours to maintain and enhance its position in Brazil and abroad. Today, we are making a fundamental step.”

For companies’ commitments see:

Mike Redwood

16th August 2009

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