Despite pledges of reform, the world’s leading supermarket and fast-food companies are doing little to address the environmental and human rights abuses associated with beef production.
Their policies continue to contribute to the destruction of the Amazon and other threatened ecosystems, according to a scorecard from the environmental nonprofit Mighty Earth.
The group said that despite beef production being the leading cause of global deforestation, only four companies — Tesco, Marks & Spencer, Carrefour, and McDonalds — are taking steps to stop purchasing beef from destructive suppliers. The remaining 11 food companies surveyed, including U.S.-based Costco, are not taking the necessary steps to stop procuring beef from suppliers with a poor record of sourcing cattle from deforested areas in the Amazon and elsewhere, Mighty Earth said.
“A small handful of global beef suppliers are leading the destruction of our global forests and selling meat to food companies around the world,” said Lucia von Resner, senior campaign director for Mighty Earth. “Supermarkets and fast-food companies are the gatekeepers in the supply chain that can either enforce sustainability standards or continue to allow meat suppliers to sell beef from deforested land to unwitting customers.”
Mighty Earth evaluated the 15 companies on three criteria: policy commitment, monitoring and verification, and public reporting on progress. The group said that U.K.-based Tesco and Marks & Spencer, along with French-based Carrefour and U.S.-based McDonalds, have begun to implement commitments not to source beef from deforested land. Tesco and Marks & Spencer were the only companies that had cut off contracts with non-compliant suppliers and that were prioritizing beef sourcing from low-risk suppliers.
The Mighty Earth report also found that most company efforts to stop ranching-related forest destruction are concentrated in the Amazon and that little was being done to stop such destruction in Brazil’s Pantanal and Cerrado, as well as in regions of Paraguay, Argentina, and Bolivia.
The group recommended that no-deforestation policy commitments should apply to all products globally, that companies implement comprehensive systems for monitoring the performance of beef suppliers, that contracts with non-compliant companies be cancelled or suspended, that beef suppliers provide full traceability of beef to the farm level, and that supermarkets and fast-food companies report regularly on their progress.
Mighty Earth and other groups are increasingly turning to pressure campaigns against corporations to stop the widespread destruction of ecosystems from the production of beef, soybeans, palm oil, and other commodities.