Forest protection promises ignore beef

Cattle have a larger role in forest clearance than any other commodity, yet supermarkets and fast food chains have failed to include beef in their forest protection promises. 

Leadership is not simply awarded for the promises companies make; it is earned by which actions they take to ensure their supply chains do not perpetuate on-going destruction,” claimed Mighty Earth in a new report.

The campaigners scored 15 global food companies on three criteria relating to their beef sourcing practices: policy commitment, monitoring and verification, and public reporting on progress. 

Tesco (65 out of 100) and Marks & Spencer (62) were the best performers. They were the only two to demonstrate effective use of the ‘suspend and engage’ approach with their beef suppliers, having cut contracts with non-compliant suppliers and prioritised sourcing from “low-risk” ones.

McDonald’s (54) scored highest among fast food groups, having begun to implement its deforestation and conversion-free (DCF) commitments for beef products. Though there are “strong policy commitments” in place, there are “no details” on how this policy is being implemented across its beef supply chain.

Pizza Hut and KFC owner Yum (44) and RBI (41), which owns Burger King, demonstrated some of the first steps for monitoring and verification – including risk analyses, engagement protocol, verification schemes, and grievance mechanisms – but largely avoided stating clear requirements for their suppliers to ensure compliance across direct and indirect beef sourcing.

Both McDonald’s and RBI noted their intention of regular reporting on progress but have “yet to do so in a way that comprehensively includes reporting on suppliers’ performance or traceability”, Mighty earth noted.

Yum performed better than peers on public reporting thanks to its CDP Forests disclosure containing information about the results of deforestation risk assessments, volumes of DCF beef sourced annually, and partial supply chain traceability.

Lucia von Reusner, senior campaign director for Mighty Earth, said supermarkets and fast food companies had to assume more responsibility for the impacts of the beef in their supply chains. “[They] are the gatekeepers in the supply chain that can either enforce sustainability standards or continue to allow meat suppliers to sell beef from deforested land to unwitting customers,” she said.

Mighty Earth called on the global brands to apply no-deforestation policy commitments to all their products globally and have a clear date for achieving compliance. There must also be internal systems in place for monitoring the performance and compliance of beef suppliers.

Regular reporting is also essential: details of the volume of  “conversion-free” beef being used and the percentage of meat that is fully traceable back to the farm should be publicly available, the campaigners said.

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