Nike just did it

Nike establishes policy to protect the Amazon and the climate

Feature story - 23 July, 2009
Just a few short weeks after the release of Slaughtering the Amazon Nike has announced new standards for keeping leather made from Amazon destruction out of its shoes.

The cattle industry is the largest source of deforestation in the world and Brazil’s main source of CO2 emissions.

Following the release of our report, Nike contacted us because they wanted to work towards a new leather sourcing policy that didn't contribute to the destruction of the Amazon or climate change. Now they'll be adhering to those standards until there can be guarantees that none of the leather and other cattle products in Brazil are coming from deforested Amazon land.

"Nike has set a great precedent for Timberland, Adidas, Reebok, and Clarks to follow," said Greenpeace forests campaigner Lindsey Allen. "Brazil's cattle industry, which supplies leather for shoes, is responsible for about 80 percent of all deforestation in the Amazon. In fact, the Brazilian cattle industry is the largest single source of deforestation anywhere in the world. And deforestation in turn causes one-fifth of all the greenhouse gas emissions in the world, more than all the world's cars, trucks, trains, planes, and ships combined."

Nike sets the example

Our three year investigation into the Brazilian cattle industry exposed the many complicated steps in the global trade in leather and beef products from Brazilian corporations Bertin, JBS and Marfrig. We've identified hundreds of ranches belonging to these part-Brazilian-government-owned companies operating within the Amazon rainforest and supplying cattle to slaughterhouses in the Amazon region. Where we were able to obtain mapped boundaries for ranches, satellite analysis reveals that significant supplies of cattle come from ranches active in recent and illegal deforestation. In addition to the horrible destruction of the land, data reveals trade with ranches using slavery as well as a Bertin slaughterhouse receiving supplies of cattle from an illegal ranch occupying Indian Lands.

The roar of destruction, slavery and injustice becomes muffled as the slaughterhouses in the Amazon region ship their hides and beef to company facilities thousands of miles away in the south of Brazil. The hides are sent south for further processing before they are exported. In a number of cases, additional processing also takes place in import countries before the final product actually reaches the market. With so many steps along the way, criminal or "dirty" supplies of cattle are being "laundered" through this supply chain to an unwitting global market of customers.

Report speeds up race to save the Amazon

The announcement from Nike is the latest in a string of welcome news for the Amazon and the climate since June 1st, when the "Slaughtering the Amazon" report was released. The day after publication, the Public Prosecution Office in Brazil's Para State announced that it was opening a billion-dollar lawsuit against several farms and various companies operating there, including one slaughterhouse owned by Brazil's cattle giant Bertin.

On June 12th, several major grocery store chains in Brazil, including Wal-Mart and Carrefour, banned beef purchased from the farms accused by the Para state prosecutor's office of being involved in illegal deforestation. The very next day, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private lending arm of the World Bank, announced that it was withdrawing a US$90 million dollar loan to Bertin. Then, on June 22nd, the world's fourth largest beef trader, Marfrig, announced a moratorium that would prevent the company from buying cattle raised in newly deforested areas within the Amazon. Unfortunately, the other companies linked to Amazon deforestation in our report continue to offer nothing but excuses.

UPDATE: Timberland has announced a new policy agreement with Greenpeace that will help ensure the leather used in its boots and shoes is not contributing to new deforestation in the Amazon Rainforest or global warming. The policy will not only guide Timberland's leather procurement from Brazil to ensure it is not supporting deforestation, but also sets a deadline for Timberland's suppliers to publicly commit to a moratorium on cattle expansion into the Amazon. Read more.

Nike sets the example

Our three year investigation into the Brazilian cattle industry exposed the many complicated steps in the global trade in leather and beef products from Brazilian corporations Bertin, JBS and Marfrig. We've identified hundreds of ranches belonging to these part-Brazilian-government-owned companies operating within the Amazon rainforest and supplying cattle to slaughterhouses in the Amazon region. Where we were able to obtain mapped boundaries for ranches, satellite analysis reveals that significant supplies of cattle come from ranches active in recent and illegal deforestation. In addition to the horrible destruction of the land, data reveals trade with ranches using slavery as well as a Bertin slaughterhouse receiving supplies of cattle from an illegal ranch occupying Indian Lands.

The roar of destruction, slavery and injustice becomes muffled as the slaughterhouses in the Amazon region ship their hides and beef to company facilities thousands of miles away in the south of Brazil. The hides are sent south for further processing before they are exported. In a number of cases, additional processing also takes place in import countries before the final product actually reaches the market. With so many steps along the way, criminal or "dirty" supplies of cattle are being "laundered" through this supply chain to an unwitting global market of customers.

Report speeds up race to save the Amazon

The announcement from Nike is the latest in a string of welcome news for the Amazon and the climate since June 1st, when the "Slaughtering the Amazon" report was released. The day after publication, the Public Prosecution Office in Brazil's Para State announced that it was opening a billion-dollar lawsuit against several farms and various companies operating there, including one slaughterhouse owned by Brazil's cattle giant Bertin.

On June 12th, several major grocery store chains in Brazil, including Wal-Mart and Carrefour, banned beef purchased from the farms accused by the Para state prosecutor's office of being involved in illegal deforestation. The very next day, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private lending arm of the World Bank, announced that it was withdrawing a US$90 million dollar loan to Bertin. Then, on June 22nd, the world's fourth largest beef trader, Marfrig, announced a moratorium that would prevent the company from buying cattle raised in newly deforested areas within the Amazon. Unfortunately, the other companies linked to Amazon deforestation in our report continue to offer nothing but excuses.

Demand Lula take the right steps

The Brazilian government still refuses to get out of bed with the powerful agribusiness industry. And, while President Lula talks the talk at the international climate negotiations, he has yet to prove he will take the leadership required to help protect us from climate change by preserving  the Amazon. Forests are a vital defense against global climate change and any effective deal to save the climate must include a deal to protect forests.

We need Lula and all other Heads of State to take personal responsibility for securing an effective climate deal by attending the Climate Summit in Copenhagen in December and taking immediate action to guarantee a positive outcome.

Take Action

At this year's UN Climate Summit in Copenhagen world leaders need to agree on the funding required to end deforestation. Tell them to personally attend the Summit and ensure that deforestation is halted.

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