New BNP Paribas policy on soy and beef is a positive step, but lacks urgency

man in soy field

Last week BNP Paribas announced a new policy to fight deforestation in the Amazon and the Cerrado. In the press release, it committed to no longer finance customers producing or buying beef or soybeans from land cleared or converted after 2008 in the Amazon. It will also “encourage” its clients not to produce or buy beef or soybeans from cleared or converted land in the Cerrado after 1 January 2020, and it will require full traceability of beef and soy (direct and indirect) channels by 2025.

While the commitment on the Amazon is a welcome step, the bank needs to do more to end finance for deforestation and land conversion.

“We are happy to receive the news that BNP Paribas says it will stop financing companies that produce or buy beef or soybeans grown on deforested or converted land after 2008 in the Amazon. However, it is necessary to reinforce that given the climate crisis that we are facing and the threat that growing deforestation in Brazil represents, the measures presented are insufficient to contain the devastating problem that we are experiencing in the Amazon and the Brazilian Cerrado” said Sonia Guajajara, Executive Coordinator of the Association of Brazil’s of Indigenous Peoples (APIB)*.

“The production of most commodities destroys the environment, directly interferes in the traditional way of life of indigenous peoples and still uses cheap labor or even slave labor,” said Sônia Guajajara. “When ensuring the traceability of impacts, these factors need to be considered. A real change in policy must include respect for traditional indigenous territories ignored by the government.”

“Large part of the deforestation taking place in the Cerrado is due to a shift in soy production away from the Amazon to the Cerrado, as a result from environmental concerns over commodities production in the first, particularly after the Amazon Soy Moratorium. However, the Cerrado is a critical ecosystem that also holds an inestimable biodiversity value, and therefore should be equally included in the exclusion of finance to customers that grow, process or trade beef and soy from cleared or converted lands in the region” said Marília Monteiro, from Banktrack.

“If BNP is truly committed to stopping deforestation in these critical ecosystems, it should halt financing immediately for firms that have already violated previous no-deforestation or conversion commitments, until they can demonstrate that they are truly willing and able to produce beef and soy without deforestation”, said Moira Birss, Climate and Finance Director at Amazon Watch.

“A No Deforestation policy is worthless without full traceability of the supply chains” said Merel van der Mark, from Forests & Finance. “By only requiring full traceability for soy and beef in 2025, BNP will continue to finance deforestation for another five years.”

See also APIB’s statement on BNP Paribas’ new policy