Companies cannot work in isolation. However large and influential, they need to work with many others in their supply chains. Large players simply can stop working with suppliers who fail to meet their standards—but pushing smaller partners to the brink is not sustainable business. Instead, they should help suppliers adopt better practices, and educate consumers to make more informed choices.
All companies, together with smallholders and farmers who currently clear land for palm oil or soy, paper production, cattle ranching or other development, are responsible for managing lands responsibly, so that the forests and soils they depend on are not degraded for short-term ends.
Companies also need the help of local, regional and national governments to set appropriate standards and incentives—such as those that prevent deforestation—and ensure effective law enforcement in areas such as the prevention of illegal tree felling.
Land is our most valuable resource—and nations (including the communities who have lived there for centuries and the governments who rule on their behalf) should be the best stewards of those resources for generations to come. We need to approach development in a way that values nature’s multiple contributions—not only for its rich biodiversity and climate management, but in supporting livelihoods and economic wellbeing.
Responsible soy production in Brazil
The Nature Conservancy has been working with Cargill since 2004 to apply its science-based approach and expertise in conservation planning. In Brazil, we have helped Cargill develop systems to ensure it only buys soybeans from farmers who are working to comply with Brazil’s Forest Code.
Through improved agriculture management practices promoted by the Conservancy's responsible soy project, Cargill can work directly with farmers to help influence how soy is produced. Over the past decade, the Responsible Soy project successfully has promoted responsible soy production in the Santarém area in Brazil, where Cargill has a soy terminal. The success of collaboration is evident from the reduction in illegal deforestation in the farms participating in the project since 2006, reaching near zero deforestation in most farms.
We know that we will not create a sustainable planet unless we engage the private sector in new conservation solutions. In tackling deforestation, progress has been made in the past five years. Numerous commodity traders and consumer companies have announced zero deforestation policies. The traceability of commodities, notably palm oil, has improved and spread. Investors are taking increasingly active roles in encouraging companies to change. Banks are looking more carefully at their investment portfolios.
We can make progress on palm oil in Indonesia, just as we are making progress on soy production in Brazil, collaborating effectively with big private sector players, to constructive ends.