Some of the world's top footwear brands, including Clarks, Adidas,
Nike and Timberland, have demanded an immediate moratorium on
destruction of the Amazon rainforest from their leather suppliers in Brazil.
The move is the first major development since the Guardian revealed a three-year undercover investigation by Greenpeace in June.
The investigation said leading Brazilian suppliers of leather and beef
for products sold in Britain had obtained cattle from farms involved in
"The decision is good news," said Carlos Minc, Brazil's
environment minister. "With government pressure on one side and with
the pressure of the consumer on the other, we have started to close in
on [environmental] criminals."
"It's great progress in a very
short space of time," said Greenpeace's James Turner. "What this does
now is really put pressure on the UK food
companies. The shoe companies have realised there is a problem and
taken action, now it's up to the supermarkets to follow that lead."
Clearing tropical forests for agriculture is estimated to produce 17% of the world's carbon emissions – more than the global transport system. Cattle farming
is now the biggest threat to the remaining Amazon rainforest, a fifth
of which has been lost since 1970. "I'd say that 65-75% of
deforestation is linked to the growth of ranching," Minc said. "We are
closing in on this, but it is still the sector that is most opposed to
change and responsible for the most deforestation in the Amazon."
Miliband, the energy and climate change secretary, who is in the Amazon
on an unrelated diplomatic trip, said: "We can only get an agreement on
climate change if it involves Brazil and it involves forestry. There is
no solution to the question of climate change without forestry. The
Amazon forest is such a beautiful place when it is untouched and then
you see these scars on the landscape from the deforestation, bigger and
In addition to the moratorium on leather from
newly deforested areas, the footwear makers have also demanded that
suppliers bring in a stringent traceability system within a year, which
will "credibly" guarantee the source of all leather.
one large supplier agreed to ensure that the farms it takes cattle from
are not responsible for deforestation. Bertin, one of Brazil's - and
the world's - major suppliers of leather and beef also agreed to meet
Greenpeace this month to negotiate how to prevent cattle ranching from
The Greenpeace investigation compiled
field work, government records, company documents and trade data from
Brazil, China, Europe, Vietnam and the US to piece together the global
movement of leather and meat from Brazilian cattle.
organisation said cattle from hundreds of legal and illegal farms
across the Amazon were mixed and processed on their way to export
sites, making it currently impossible to trace the origins of products.
"In effect, criminal or 'dirty' supplies of cattle are 'laundered'
through the supply chain," said the report. Greenpeace has asked
companies to refuse to buy from such suppliers and for consumers to
press supermarkets and high street brands to clean up the supply chains.
said that some Brazilian processing companies exported products linked
to Amazon destruction to dozens of blue-chip companies across the
world, and named three major processors, Bertin, JBS and Marfrig, which
together control a third of Brazilian beef exports.
"We all agree
[preventing deforestation] is possible," Leonardo Swirski, head of
Bertin's leather division, told the Guardian last night. But he warned
against measures that would harm the livelihoods of the 20 million
people in the Amazon region.
"If all [consumers] are not buying
any products from the Amazon, they will surely create other sorts of
problems." He believes other supply companies will also take action:
"We have an advantage if they don't. I believe everyone will follow."
and Marfrig reiterated commitments to not sourcing cattle from
illegally deforested land, and all three have agreed with the federal
prosecutor to reject these cattle. Marcus O'Sullivan, a director in
JBS's London office, said: "We are very committed to the protection of
the Amazon biome. We work closely with Ibama [the Brazilian ministry of
defence's enforcement agency] and don't purchase cattle from the
Under the moratorium, the footwear companies
will refuse to buy leather sourced from farms on both legally and
illegally deforested land. It will be extended if the demand for
credible traceability is not in place within a year.
which is a major customer of Bertin, said in a statement: "Clarks will
require suppliers of Brazilian leather to certify, in writing, that
they are not supplying leather from recently deforested areas in the
Timberland said: "We are grateful for the work of
NGOs such as Greenpeace in exposing problems deep within the Brazilian
leather supply chain."
Adidas said: "We believe that joining
together with our industry partners in this effort ensures an ongoing
and sustainable method to stop deforestation in the Amazon biome