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Perspectives:  We Will End Deforestation, but Faster, More Collaborative Action is Needed

By Dave MacLennan, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, March 21, 2019

We believe we must help our forests flourish, while responsibly producing the food we need to feed a hungry world. That is why we have pledged to do our part in slowing, halting, and reversing global forest loss, while enhancing farmer livelihoods and food security for all.

On this International Day of the Forests, I am reflecting on the progress we have made to fulfill that important pledge, and on the important work we have yet to do.

We are committed to ending deforestation in our supply chains. Since making the public commitment in 2014, we have established executive-level oversight for land use and forest protection. We have developed policies and action plans, joined coalitions and aligned with thoughtful partners. Together we are implementing meaningful programs to source cocoa in the Ivory Coast, advance sustainable palm oil practices in Indonesia, and support more sustainable soy production in Brazil.

Despite this progress, we – our company, our industry, and organizations around the world – must do more. Agricultural expansion continues at the expense of forests and each passing day is a missed opportunity. Our environment and mutual prosperity depend on swift action.

We know the situation is complex. Ending deforestation requires a balance of competing environmental, economic and social priorities. To succeed, everyone needs to come to the table, make informed choices and balance the unintended consequences related to agricultural production and protecting forests; choices that must also consider local laws and regulations. 

We cannot and will not let this complexity slow us down. Sustainability is written into Cargill’s purpose – just as it is written into the priorities of many other companies. This explicit commitment to sustainability shapes the way we do business every day.

We are taking actions that can and will have a significant positive impact. Our position in global supply chains gives us a responsibility to do so. I believe we can and WILL end deforestation while also creating an environment where farmers and communities prosper.

Cargill is working every day to be part of the solution through:

Increased accountability: In 2017, we created a Land Use and Forest Protection executive-level Steering Committee and strategy working team. These experts work across our businesses, with a specific focus on our highest-risk supply chains: cocoa, palm, and soy. They are empowered to take bold steps and convene unlikely alliances to transform how we do business.
We recently introduced our South American Sustainable Soy Policy, Human Rights policy and updated our Forest Policy. These complement our existing sustainable palm and cocoa policies and action plans. The policies are not just words on a page. They are actionable, time-bound plans that will transform our supply chain to be deforestation-free and promote responsible production.

Collaborative action: Ending deforestation will require true transformation of global supply chains. This can only be accomplished through partnerships that bring change to the entire industry. 

Through the WRI’s Global Forest Watch, we can collectively identify risks at origin and take swifter and focused action. Ultimately, we believe this can play an important role in accelerating accountability to help end deforestation.

More recently, this same group convened through the WBSCD’s Soft Commodities Forum to recommend monitoring and reporting standards across supply chains in the Cerrado region of Brazil. The Forum also promotes – in collaboration – the development of new financial mechanisms to improve farmer livelihoods through incentives, rewards for  positive production practices and access to key markets.

Continued conversation: No single company or community can end deforestation alone. We need diverse perspectives and experiences – NGOs, farmers, governments, and the private sector – to explore solutions together. We welcome various voices and viewpoints to facilitate constructive dialogue and productive actions.

We are also forming an external advisory panel to challenge our thinking and guide us toward effective, sustainable interventions and implementation plans.  We will introduce the panel this spring

On this International Day of the Forests, I am confident in our ability to affect urgently-needed, meaningful change. I believe that through Cargill’s actions – and the collaborative actions of others – we can have a future where both farmers and forests prosper.

For more about Cargill’s efforts, watch this video featuring Ruth Kimmelshue, our Senior Vice President of Business Operations & Supply Chain.