Cargill faces legal action over deforestation and human rights failings

Environmental law group, ClientEarth, has filed a legal complaint against Cargill over its failure to adequately deal with its contribution to soy-driven deforestation and human rights violations in Brazil.

The complaint aims to ensure that the company – the largest privately held firm in the US with annual revenue of $165 billion – becomes accountable for its deforestation footprint in the Amazon rainforest, Atlantic Forest and Cerrado savanna.

ClientEarth alleges that Cargill is not properly monitoring vast quantities of soy it trades, handles at its ports, or ships to global markets to identify and eliminate links to deforestation and human rights abuses, breaching its legal due diligence responsibilities.

The organisation says that a number of reports, for example from Greenpeace and Global Witness, have documented the company’s role in driving environmental destruction in Brazil’s vulnerable ecosystems, as well as rights violations of Indigenous, Afro-Brazilian and other forest-dependent communities.

The Amazon rainforest, Atlantic Forest and Cerrado savanna are biodiversity hotspots and critical carbon sinks. However, with the rapid increase in deforestation, in part driven by agriculture, the Amazon is approaching a tipping point, after which scientists say the rainforest will turn into dry grassland, emitting very large amounts of carbon dioxide. Meanwhile, almost half of the Cerrado has already been lost.

ClientEarth has triggered the complaints procedure in the US under the guidelines of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), an international set of standards for responsible business conduct.

Laura Dowley, ClientEarth lawyer, said “The rapid expansion of soy production for animal feed worldwide is pushing Brazil’s vulnerable rainforests and savannas dangerously close to tipping points they may never recover from, while putting the communities that depend on them in danger.

“As one of the largest soy traders sourcing from Brazil, Cargill should be leading the world’s best practice to stop soy linked to deforestation and human rights abuses from flooding the global food market.

“Instead, its poor due diligence raises the risk that the meat sold in supermarkets across the world is raised on so-called ‘dirty’ soy. We believe that this breaches the international code on responsible business conduct.”

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