Three of the UK’s leading supermarkets have invested in a new programme which supports Brazilian soya farmers who commit to zero deforestation.
Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose have invested US$11m in the Responsible Commodities Facility (RCF), a new system of financial incentives for farmers in Brazil who commit to deforestation- and conversion-free (DCF) soya cultivation.
Each of the three supermarkets has made a business commitment to achieve 100% deforestation- and conversion- free soya by 2025. They are now urging more food businesses to join them in protecting critical ecosystems.
The initiative is being financed through dollar-denominated green bonds with the capital raised used to offer low-interest loans to farmers who comply with its eligibility criteria, and commit to zero deforestation of native vegetation, over and above their legal reserves.
The RCF will initially provide finance to 36 farms in the Cerrado region of Brazil, which is the world’s most biodiverse savanna and is under threat from high levels of deforestation, mostly driven by the expansion of soya cultivation.
The finance will allow the farms to produce 75,000 tonnes of soya per year for four years, resulting in the conservation of around 11,000 hectares of native vegetation, 4,200 in excess of legal reserves.
After an initial 12-month trial phase, the plan is for the RCF to be scaled up to include hundreds of farmers across Brazil which the group says will help protect vast tracts of native Cerrado vegetation in Brazil conserving biodiversity, water quality and carbon stocks.
An independent committee including the likes of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), WWF and Proforest will review and provide input into the environmental management of the RCF, which will be run by environmental finance advisory firm Sustainable Investment Management.
It is hoped that the trial programme, which is also being funded by cocoa and chocolate supplier Barry Callebaut, will inspire other organisations and businesses to lend their support.
“This initiative highlights the need for the whole food industry to come together and support the protection of critical ecosystems like the Cerrado,” said Ken Murphy, Tesco Group CEO. “We urge more businesses and organisations to join us in providing funding for the RCF, to aid its roll-out in future years.”