“Forests are the lungs of our land, purifying the air and giving fresh strength to our people.” — President Franklin D. Roosevelt upon receiving a forestry medal in 1935
In his quote, the ‘other Roosevelt’ (from a conservation standpoint, his cousin Teddy was better known) captured the dueling reasons to protect our forests. Forests provide a service by “purifying the air” (as well as supplying fresh drinking water, storing carbon and more). Plus, they add value and richness to our lives by offering “fresh strength to our people.” More than 80 years ago, the science wasn’t there in terms of proving FDR’s “fresh strength” statement, but today we know that a walk in the woods is truly good for us.
For the reasons embedded in the FDR quote and more, we need healthy, wild forests in America and beyond our borders.
As an environmental group based in the United States, our role in protecting forests beyond our borders has come in the form of urging and pushing U.S. companies to step up and commit to protecting the world’s forests. One way we’ve done that is by working closely with Environment America’s affiliated mutual fund Green Century Capital Management° to get corporations to make changes to their business practices.
Here are three recent wins that warrant highlighting:
Bunge* votes to strengthen its deforestation policy (May 7).
Bunge is one of the “Big 4” global agricultural commodity traders, and it sources soy from Brazil, where forests are leveled to grow it.
Bunge had a no-deforestation policy in place, but its soy supply chain continued to be linked with deforestation in the Cerrado region of Brazil. While not as well-known as the Amazon, this area features essential root systems that store huge amounts of carbon. Green Century spearheaded a no-deforestation shareholder resolution calling for a change to those destructive ways. Bunge’s board of directors surprised many by recommending a yes vote, and a whopping 98 percent of shareholders did just that, making this the highest vote ever for a deforestation shareholder proposal.
“We are heartened by the board’s support,” Green Century President Leslie Samuelrich said, “but we will be watching to ensure that the company takes comprehensive measures to eliminate deforestation and native vegetation conversion in the company’s soy supply chain.”
Archer-Daniels-Midland (ADM) strengthens its no-deforestation plan (April 19).
For years, we have urged the world’s largest grain trader ADM to strengthen its no-deforestation plan and even asked our email followers to weigh in. Recently, Green Century and others filed a shareholder resolution calling for this change. ADM got the message. The company agreed to strengthen its plan by pledging to stop the conversion of native vegetation in its South America soy supply chain, including the Cerrado region. Further, it agreed to make its supply chain in Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina traceable. With this act, Green Century withdrew its shareholder proposal.
“By reforming its agricultural supply chain,” Green Century’s Samuelrich said, “[ADM] positions itself as an environmental leader among the major grain companies.”
JP Morgan Chase expands policies on deforestation (April 8).
Roughly one month ago, in response to a shareholder resolution, JP Morgan Chase became the first U.S. bank to adopt new policies to help stop deforestation. Specifically, the company will require its clients in the palm oil sector to comply with tighter, tougher forest sourcing practices, called “No Deforestation, No Peat, No Exploitation.” JP Morgan Chase’s commitment will help raise the performance of other companies up and down the soy and agricultural supply chain and may inspire other banks to follow suit.
More to come.
These corporate announcements are important steps in the right direction, and they’re needed. In 2020, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization declared that deforestation and forest degradation are taking place at “alarming rates” and that “agricultural expansion continues to be one of the main drivers.”
At Environment America, we will continue to lean into campaigns that call on companies to protect forests around the globe. We’ll continue to give “fresh strength” to all of us.
Image by Greg Montani from Pixabay.
°Green Century Capital Management, Inc. (Green Century) is the investment advisor to the Green Century Funds (The Funds). The Green Century Funds are the first family of fossil fuel free, responsible, and diversified mutual funds in the United States. Green Century Capital Management hosts an award-winning and in-house shareholder advocacy program and is the only mutual fund company in the U.S. wholly owned by environmental and public health nonprofit organizations.
*As of March 31, 2021, Bunge Limited comprised 0.00%, 0.06%, and 0.00% and Archer-Daniels-Midland Company comprised 0.00%, 0.18%, and 0.00% of the Green Century Balanced Fund, the Green Century Equity Fund, and the Green Century International Index Fund respectively. As of the same date, other securities mentioned were not held in the portfolios of any of the Green Century Funds. References to specific securities, which will change due to ongoing management of the Funds, should not be construed as a recommendation by the Funds, their administrator, or their distributor.
The percentage in favor was calculated by (i) dividing the number of votes in support of the proposal by (ii) the sum of the number of votes voted in support of and against the proposal. Abstentions and broker non-votes were not included in the calculation.
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Senior Director, Conservation America Campaign, Environment America Research & Policy Center