Despite committing to deforestation-free supply chains, the top 10 food and beverage companies lack policies to protect the activists and communities caring for the environment from intimidation, threats and attacks, according to a new Oxfam report.
Commercial farming of some everyday food ingredients, like soy and palm oil, are driving massive deforestation in tropical countries, including Brazil, Colombia and Indonesia. In recent years, attacks and threats against environmental defenders, who are standing up against the unchecked expansion of these commodities into the forests, have escalated. In “Pathways to Deforestation-Free Food,” Oxfam reveals how the biggest food brands and their suppliers don’t have policies protecting the lives of these defenders.
“These industry giants need to not only pledge to protect the forests, but the communities and indigenous people living within them,” said Oxfam America’s Senior Climate Policy Advisor Aditi Sen. “We urge companies to adopt zero-tolerance policies for attacks against human rights defenders and publicly advocate for safe spaces for civil society.”
“While we support the progress the food industry has made to combat deforestation associated with its supply chains, it’s crucial for them to build business models that also ensure people’s rights and livelihoods are protected. In the long run, rates of deforestation are a lot lower when community rights over their lands and forests are safe.”
Companies are also lagging in workers’ and farmers’ rights – none of them have strong enough sourcing requirements to ensure that small-scale farmers and workers in their supply chains can earn living incomes or wages.
The report also finds that companies are not doing enough to translate their policy commitments into practical action. Few companies are tracing their supply chain back to the farm, where most of the environmental and human rights violations occur. Companies need to track and disclose the practices of their suppliers and proactively identify and address with the environmental and human rights risks in their supply chains.
The companies analyzed in Oxfam’s report include the ‘Big 10’ targeted by the Behind the Brands campaign - Associated British Foods (ABF), Coca-Cola, Danone, General Mills, Kellogg, Mars, Mondelez, Nestle, PepsiCo and Unilever, and three major traders supplying to the brands – Archer Daniels Midlands (ADM), Cargill and Wilmar.
“These defenders safeguard the world’s forests and natural resources, help combat the global climate crisis, and fight for the rights of their communities. The food and beverage industry shouldn’t turn their backs on these brave activists,” said Sen.
Becky Davis in Washington
Press Officer, Oxfam America Policy and Campaigns
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