Stronger when we work together: Lessons from the Brazilian Soy Moratorium

By Chris Schraeder June 10, 2015
  • The Brazilian Soy Moratorium offers important lessons in fighting deforestation worldwide.
  • Cargill is honored to be recognized by the Keystone Policy Center for our role in implementing the Brazilian Soy Moratorium.
  • As we approach the ten year anniversary of the moratorium, we are deepening our commitment and expanding our efforts across all commodities.

Since 2006, Cargill has played a critical role in stemming the spread of deforestation in the Amazon biome as a participant in the Brazilian Soy Moratorium, a voluntary zero-deforestation agreement. The moratorium has been considered a resounding success because it helped slow deforestation and reduced global demand for soy grown on deforested land. It has contributed to a dramatic drop in deforestation in the region: the annual rate of deforestation in Brazil’s Amazon region has decreased by nearly 80 percent.

But it wasn’t clear from the start that the moratorium was bound for success. Beginning in the mid-1990s, deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon accelerated as hectare after hectare of forest land was cleared for cattle grazing, agriculture and other uses – including growing demand for soybeans. By the early 2000s, as the effects became more pronounced, scientists and NGOs started raising concerns about the dramatic global consequences if the rate of deforestation continued.

As pressure increased from customers and stakeholders, Cargill was among a number of organizations that came together to take action – including Greenpeace and McDonald’s. Cargill responded by bringing together other industry stakeholders, and together the organizations created a Brazilian task force made up of industry and NGO representatives. Cargill has also worked with The Nature Conservancy since 2004 to make informed business decisions and guide policy.

“The soy moratorium was so important because it was the first time that you get the major players in a specific supply chain agreeing things need to change in order for things to stay the same,” said Paulo Sousa, business unit leader, Cargill Grain and Oilseed Supply Chain Brazil. “I mean for us to keep on operating and supplying our customers worldwide we need to change the way we source our products.”

As a result, major soybean traders agreed not to purchase soy grown on lands deforested after July 2006 in the Brazilian Amazon. Since then, the Brazilian government has also played an important role by improving legal enforcement in the region. Such a major multi-stakeholder collaboration was unprecedented. It required a shared belief that the Amazon is a vital resource that needs to be preserved and protected, and it required a commitment to build trust and confidence with other stakeholders.

These efforts were recently recognized by the Keystone Policy Center, which honored Cargill, Greenpeace and McDonald’s with the Leadership in Environment Award

“Organizations like Cargill, McDonald’s and Greenpeace […] are demonstrating how we are better and stronger when we work together to find common ground,” said Christine Scanlan, President and CEO of the Keystone Policy Center. “The Keystone Policy Center is honored to recognize their work – and to challenge others to follow their examples.”

Deforestation continues to be an issue worldwide, contributing to loss of critical habitat and emissions of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

As a signatory to the U.N.’s New York Declaration on Forests, Cargill is committed to halving deforestation in it supply chains by 2020 and eliminating it by 2030. The lessons from the Brazilian Soy Moratorium set the stage for supply-chain governance of other commodities.

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