$5.6 Trillion Investor Coalition Throws Weight Behind Cerrado Conservation

Marissa Rosen

18 September 2018 | Over the past 30 years, environmental NGOs and the Brazilian government have slashed deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon, mostly by positioning the Amazon as the “lungs of the planet” and getting companies to sign and implement the high-profile Soy Moratorium and Cattle Agreements.

But what about the Cerrado?

The Amazon Forest’s relatively low-key neighbor gets little attention, but it’s the world’s most biodiverse savannah, as well as the birthplace of many of Brazil’s water systems, yet agricultural expansion has replaced roughly half of its native plants, and its deforestation rates have been higher than those of the Amazon for over a decade, losing an area of forest the size of Greater London —  namely, 18,962 square kilometers — every two months from 2013 through 2015.

The Cerrado also has its own manifesto. The Cerrado Manifesto, which was launched in October of last year, hadn’t garnered the kind of support needed to be effective — until last week, at the Global Climate Action Summit (GCAS), where a coalition of 44 investment institutions, worth US $5.6 trillion, signed onto the Statement of Support, bringing the total number of signatories to 114. What is the Manifesto?

Like its Amazon equivalent, the Cerrado Manifesto is a call for action by companies and investors in defense of the Cerrado. It was started by civil society stakeholders including groups such as WWF-Brazil, Greenpeace Brazil, Amazon Environmental Research Institute (IPAM), Institute of Agricultural and Forest Management and Certification (Imaflora), The Nature Conservancy (TNC), and Earth Innovation Institute (EII). The Manifesto was originally signed by 23 companies, including Tesco, McDonald’s, Unilever, and Walmart, all of which use Brazilian soy or cattle in their supply chain.

This matters because deforestation is one of the leading drivers of climate change, and companies worth US $941 billion are dependent on commodities linked to deforestation. Globally, 15 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions are directly attributed to to the destruction of forests, andpreserving them would help mitigate 30-33% of emissions by 2030.

Forging the Alliance

Co-ordinated by the FAIRR Initiative, a London-based investor network set up by private equity pioneer Jeremy Coller, CIO of Coller Capital, the 44 investment institutions came together in the past six weeks to make this statement. The announcement follows the growth of the Investor Initiative for Sustainable Forests, a collaboration by the UN-supported Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) and US non-profit Ceres, focused on exposing deforestation risks in South America related to soy and cattle.

FAIRR launched the Coller FAIRR Protein Producer Index in July this year to assess how 60 global livestock and aquaculture companies disclose and manage key ESG risks, including deforestation and biodiversity loss. FAIRR’s assessment found that 84% of the companies in its Index – suppliers to some of the biggest food brands in the world – do not have targets or policies to address deforestation risk.

Maria Lettini, Director of FAIRR, said “investors are concerned by the regulatory, operational, and market risks created by mass deforestation in the Cerrado; and are now joining forces with leading food companies… The precipitous pace of deforestation in the Cerrado hurts ecosystems rich in biodiversity and impacts the livelihoods of local farmers. This convergence of environmental and social risks also threatens the value of trillions of dollars of investments.”

The newly-announced investment coalition of the Cerrado Manifesto supports the development of more sustainable agriculture in the region. The already-cleared 38 million hectares of land can support the development of crops like soy without causing any further loss of forest assets.

For the full copy of the Statement of Support and information for investors, visit https://cerradostatement.fairr.org.

Marissa Rosen is an expert in digital marketing and social media focused on sustainable business; founder of Climate Social and consultant to Forest Trends. She earned a Bachelor’s degree in Communications (B.A.) from the University of Missouri – Columbia, as a Masters’ in Environmental Studies (M.E.S.) from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

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