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Perspectives: Together we can protect forests and preserve land in Brazil

June 14, 2019

Editor’s note: the following op-ed by Cargill CEO Dave MacLennan was published on the Tropical Forest Alliance 2020 website on June 13, 2019.

Nearly five years ago, at the United Nations Climate Summit, I signed the New York Declaration on Forests. In doing so, I pledged that Cargill would do our part in slowing, halting and reversing global forest loss, while enhancing food security for all.

It’s a commitment that we continue to stand behind. Since 2014, we’ve developed new policies and action plans, joined coalitions and aligned with thoughtful partners. Together, we are taking action – such as 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.

Yet, despite our collective efforts, industry is poised to fall short of a 2020 goal to eliminate deforestation in key supply chains, including beef, soy and palm oil. That is hard for me to admit – but it is not a reason to stop taking critical action.

Our company, industry and organizations around the world need to do more. We need to move faster. And we need to act together.

Forests and farming must coexist.

We must end deforestation in a way that protects forests and native vegetation while simultaneously allowing farmers and communities to prosper. Perhaps nowhere is this currently more critical than in the Cerrado region of Brazil.

The Cerrado is home to more than 28 million people and agriculture is a critical component of the local economy. The region also supports a vast range of plant and animal biodiversity, which must be protected.

Balancing the needs of forests, farmers and communities is a challenge that cannot be solved by any one company alone. Cargill has been focused on creating sustainable supply chains for many years. Our experience has shown us that we are only successful when everyone involved in the supply chain works together. 

We’ve also learned that solutions are seldom simple or universal. The changes we’ve implemented in our palm supply chain, for example, will not work in the soy supply chain, where the industry is more fragmented and the farming economics are drastically different.

Solutions require collaborative action.

The soy industry in Brazil has many large and small players. If Cargill alone takes action, the same practices that exist today will continue. We believe more must be done. Industry, local communities and governments must find and agree upon a shared solution.

The food and agriculture industry understands the power of innovation to accelerate positive solutions at scale.  It’s our shared responsibility to protect the planet and ensure local communities have equal opportunities to thrive.

That’s why Cargill is committing $30 million to accelerate new ideas.

And, it’s why I am urgently calling on our competitors, customers and others to join us.

We will convene the best and brightest minds to identify innovative solutions to end deforestation, starting with the soy industry in Brazil. It will take collective action to solve this problem, not merely shift it to another company’s supply chain.

Cargill is a large company, and on our own, we can drive change. Working with others, we can transform our industry. And in doing so, we can create a socially responsible, environmentally sound and economically viable supply chain that works for everyone.

Together we can… and together we will.