Bank of Montreal’s links to massive, illegal Amazon deforestation condemned by Indigenous leaders during Biodiversity Summit

Montreal, Canada – Today, during the COP15 biodiversity summit in Montreal, Brazilian Indigenous leaders and their allies held a protest at the headquarters of the Bank of Montreal (BMO) to denounce the bank’s significant financing of the notorious Brazilian meatpacking company JBS. JBS announced in November that BMO arranged US$1.5 billion in revolving credit to the company. This is despite the meatpacker’s documented links to vast Amazon deforestation, including on Indigenous lands, in its sourcing of rainforest-raised cattle.

A month prior to BMO’s agreement, JBS admitted to having purchased nearly 9,000 head of cattle, between 2018 and 2022, from a criminal gang whose leader is in prison for illegal Amazon deforestation. JBS also admitted that two of its employees knowingly collaborated with the gang. The company has long promised to eliminate illegal deforestation from its direct and indirect supply chains, but has repeatedly failed to meet its own targets. Forest clearance for cattle ranching is the leading driver of forest and biodiversity loss in the Brazilian Amazon. 

A number of financial institutions have already divested from JBS over its multiple social and environmental conflicts, including the Norwegian Pension Fund Global. The organizations and Indigenous advocates protesting in Montreal today are demanding Bank of Montreal follow suit and end its massive financial support for the controversial company, as JBS has demonstrated its commitments around ending forest destruction are unreliable. 

Dinamam Tuxá, Executive Coordinator of the Association of Brazil’s Indigeous Peoples (APIB) issued the following statement:

“While Canada hosts a critical summit to determine the future of our planet’s remaining biodiversity, we came to denounce that one of its leading banks is financing a Brazilian company responsible for untold forest destruction and biodiversity loss, including on Amazonian Indigenous lands. Indigenous peoples are proven the best guardians of Amazonian forests as well as global biodiversity. BMO must heed our call to cease financing JBS and other companies driving the biodiversity crisis.” 

Merel van der Mark, Forests & Finance Coalition Coordinator issued the following statement:

JBS has proven itself to be unwilling of ending its role in driving widespread deforestation in the Amazon. By continuing to finance the company, Bank of Montreal makes itself complicit in the destruction of this global hotspot of biodiversity. BMO must stop funneling billions of dollars into this rogue company immediately.”

Christian Poirier, Amazon Watch Program Director issued the following statement:

“While the Amazon hosts 10% of our planet’s biodiversity, the forest’s very future is imperiled by the business model of companies like Brazil’s JBS, which has long driven massive Amazon destruction. BMO’s lavish financing of this notorious company is scandalous. JBS has no place in the portfolio of any responsible financial institution.”

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