Towards Meaningful Human Rights Impact Assessments
Exploitation of people and the planet continues to be rampant in the production of food. Supermarkets are powerful players in international food value chains, which is why Oxfam called on supermarkets to take responsibility for human rights in their supply chains in the Behind the Barcodes campaign. Responding to the campaign, several Dutch, German and UK supermarkets committed to conducting and publishing Human Rights Impact Assessments (HRIAs) and subsequent action plans to mitigate and prevent negative human rights impacts in their value chains. This report, released by Oxfam, analyses the HRIAs and action plans that the largest Dutch, German and UK supermarkets have published in the past four years. Profundo conducted the research behind the case study presented in the report of Lidl’s HRIA on berries from Huelva.
Banks and investors enable forestry and agribusiness companies to expand operations into the world’s remaining tropical forest ecosystems. This is driving the destruction of forests and peatlands and violating Indigenous Peoples’ and local communities' rights. This report by Forests and Finance, a coalition of eight campaign, grassroots, and research organizations, including Profundo, maps commercial financial flows to the forest-sector operations of 300 companies within six forest-risk commodity sectors – beef, palm oil, pulp and paper, rubber, soy, and timber – which collectively cause most tropical deforestation globally.
Rabobank’s accountability share in Brazilian deforestation
Profundo previously calculated the total costs of damage linked to the climate devastating cash flows from Rabobank to Brazil. In a follow-up study, Profundo calculated which damage claim accrues directly to Rabobank. This shows that Rabobank is responsible for at least 9.5 billion euros of the total damage, and in the worst-case scenario that responsibility even rises to 61 billion euros. When calculating Rabobank's share, Profundo looked at a.o. the profit made and the knowledge of the chain players involved.
Banks financing fossil fuels and industrial agriculture in Global South
This report looks at the role played by major international banks in financing fossil fuels and industrial agriculture in the Global South. Bank financing provided to the fossil fuel industry in the Global South reached an estimated US$3.2 trillion in the seven years since the Paris Agreement on Climate Change was adopted. Bank financing provided to the largest industrial agriculture companies operating in the Global South amounted to US$370 billion over the same period. The report also examines the current role of public financing in supporting fossil fuels and industrial agriculture, and how public finance could instead support a transition towards a more sustainable future based on renewable energy and agroecology.
Timber and Rubber Finance in the Lower Mekong Region
This report mapped the main companies and their financiers in the timber and rubber sectors, assessed their policies for mitigating deforestation risks, evaluating the effectiveness of the region's financial sector policy environment, and providing recommendations for collaborating with the financial sector and regulators to protect natural capital while promoting economic development. USD 11.4 billion in forest-risk loans and services were provided by financial institutions between 2016 and 2022, to companies that represent a deforestation risk in the Lower Mekong Region.
Paper-based packaging remains the largest source of packaging waste in the European Union (41.1%), higher than the total of the two next largest materials combined - plastic (19.4%) and glass (19.1%). As a reaction to the environmental and socio-economic impacts associated with plastics - paper-based packaging is increasingly marketed as a sustainable alternative. Evidence shows however that paper-based substitutes present many new as well as similar challenges, such as deforestation and high water usage. Furthermore, paper is nearly always combined with plastics and chemical coatings. Therefore, marketing single-use paper based products as sustainable alternatives to plastics is misleading.
Profundo analysed financial institutions headquartered and registered in Ireland financing agribusinesses and fossil fuel industries. The study reveals that Ireland is a significant channel for global institutional investment in fossils fuels and industrial agriculture, with €5.7 billion in climate-harming investment to the Global South. The report also reveals that as of January this year Irish financial institutions held €12.1 million of investments in fossils fuels. Of this figure the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund (ISIF) held €10.4 million, mostly in bonds issued by Chinese electric utility company State Grid Corporation of China. It is by design that Ireland acts as a channel for global institutional investors to profit from their fossil fuel investments in the Global South. Ireland needs to address this and ensure policy coherence.
Benchmark Deforestation and Conversion-free Soy in Europe
On behalf of WWF Germany and IUCN NL Profundo developed a benchmarking report which compares the European Feed Manufacturers' Federation Soy Sourcing Guidelines (FEFAC SSG) and 20 Voluntary Standard Systems (VSS) against a set of 49 basic provisions and 11 additional requirements that cover the most important sustainability topics in the soy industry. Assessment criteria focus on deforestation and ecosystem conversion, landscapes and biodiversity, social issues and human rights, traceability, and governance and assurance. They are based on EU Deforestation Regulation (EUDR), Accountability Framework Initiative (AFi) Core Principles, the upcoming EU Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive (CSDDD), FEFAC SSG, and WWF conservation agenda. Almost all standards have become more robust since 2019, when the previous benchmark was published. 20 of them already go beyond legality in their no-deforestation requirements, and 17 also cover other ecosystems beyond forests. Despite the general improvement in all standards, independent multi-stakeholder initiatives outperform corporate schemes across an array of environmental and social criteria and are better prepared for the EUDR. The report also showed that voluntary standards are part of a bigger toolbox for companies. They can be used for compliance with legislative regulations, but in fact offer so much more: comprehensive ecological and social requirement that can help companies to take on their responsibility for understanding their supply chains and making them more sustainable for the benefit of our societies and the environment. Based on the conversations with the standard holders, we already see that those who have an ambition to become EUDR-compliant are actively adapting their requirements and implementation guidelines. To better reflect this process and its outcomes, this benchmark will be updated on the EUDR-readiness in the first half of 2024.
Vegetable Seed Trade Between India and the Netherlands
This research assessed the corporate social responsibility (CSR) policies of ten Netherlands-based vegetable seed companies against fundamental, internationally accepted human and labour rights guidelines. The results show that corporate efforts are falling short in their adequacy to prevent and mitigate labour rights breaches in the supply chain, such as living wages, child labour, and women’s rights. Several of the assessed seed companies have no CSR policies in place. Companies with a CSR policy in place still fall short of describing how those commitments are brought into practice. There are close trade links between the Indian and Dutch vegetable seed sectors, consisting of both local companies and subsidiaries of multinational businesses. India plays an important role in the trialling and propagation of hybrid vegetable seeds due to favourable growing conditions, a large market, and cheap labour for the intense manual work. Important seeds traded with the Netherlands include tomatoes, sweet pepper, and cucumber.
Dutch Rabobank financed sectors that contribute to deforestation and environmental destruction in Brazil on a large scale. In the period 2000-2022, Rabobank provided nearly $10 billion in loans and other financial services to companies in the beef, soy and pulp and paper sectors in Brazil. That yielded at least €700 million in profit. This is offset by enormous damage to climate, nature and health of at least €66 billion.
Chain Reaction Research experts laid out a guide for understanding some of the most advanced Sustainability Due Diligence Initiatives that corporations and investors will have to manage. These initiatives will have significant impacts on producers, traders, and investors in tropical commodity supply chains like cattle, soy, palm oil and more as their efforts to eliminate deforestation and illegal activities are watched more closely.
A new study for WWF demonstrates that global financial institutions continue to be exposed to deforestation, conversion and human rights risks through their portfolios by financing corporate buyers of palm oil that are lagging behind on their sustainability commitments. In the period January 2016 to December 2021, financial institutions provided US$4.4 trillion to the 239 entities who are also buyers of palm oil. During the same period, nearly US$1.5 trillion were allocated to loans and underwriting. In addition, as of April 2022 which is the most recent filing date US$2.9 trillion were held in bonds and shares.
Sodrugestvo: Soy Trader Linked to Brazilian Deforestation and Russian Finances
Sodrugestvo is a Luxembourg-based agro-industrial group with Russian
ownership. While less known than the top soy traders, it has significantly
expanded its sourcing, processing, and trading of Brazilian soy in recent years.
The company is linked to various social and environmental issues.
More than 60 European and international banks have invested over €25.9 billion into 15 of the EU’s largest meat, dairy and animal feed companies in Denmark, France, Germany, Netherlands, Spain between 2016 and 2021. Despite the fact that many of these companies have been linked to human rights issues and environmental harms, land grabbing and labour rights abuses. Profundo provided an overview and analysis of the banks that are financing European food and agricultural industries.
Belgian consumption of sugarcane ethanol from Brazil and Peru
Belgian imports of bioethanol made from sugarcane have increased dramatically. Brazil was the key origin for sugarcane feedstock, accounting for 73% of the sugarcane-based bioethanol consumed on the Belgian market in 2021. However, severe human right violations are identified in producing areas include harming the rights of women, children and indigenous communities, worker’s rights, civil and political rights, health rights, the right to education, food, adequate housing, to physical integrity and to live. While the research uses Brazil and Peru as examples, the findings are applicable for the broader context of first-generation biofuels.
Allies Mapping for Fair Value Chains and Food Systems (FAIR)
This project was commissioned by Oxfam Novib and consisted of mapping of allies to understand the work of other stakeholders active in the food systems space, including their power, interests, interdependencies, differences, and sentiments. This mapping of allies is intended to inform the design and strategy of Oxfam Novib’s new campaign. Moreover, it will allow Oxfam Novib's Fair Value Chains and Food Systems team to understand whether other stakeholders’ work in the food systems space aligns with Oxfam’s vision and whether there is scope for forming strategic partnerships.