Aerial view of green forests and blue waters
The Amazon near Manaus, Brazil. Photo: Flickr / Neil Palmer / CIAT .

Internationally traded agricultural commodities – such as soy, beef and palm oil – are a multi-billion-dollar segment of the global economy and play a key role in driving development across the tropics. But production of these commodities is often linked to heavy social and environmental impacts.  This is the case for most of the Latin American countries that share the stewardship of the Amazon basin.

These impacts bring operational, reputational and legal risks to companies and can potentially undermine the long-term development plans of countries whose economic health depends upon a healthy agricultural sector.

A well-known example is the 2009 Cattle Agreement where the four largest meatpackers (JBS, Marfrig, Minerva and Bertín) agreed to only buy from ranches where no new deforestation had occurred since the date of the agreement.  This move was precipitated, in part, by Greenpeace’s high-profile ‘Slaughtering the Amazon’ report that highlighted the role of the cattle sector in driving 80% of deforestation in the region and its links to slave labour, and had a catalysing effect in highlighting the risks that many companies were exposed to.

Similar examples can be found in how concern over the risks posed by unsustainable soy, palm oil, and other major commodities has led to calls for a step-change in how these systems are governed.

Such impacts pose a crucial question for the Amazon Security Agenda initiative: how can we transition to a more sustainable economy, in which a healthy Amazonia underpins long-term economic resilience and prosperity?

Source: Climate & Development Knowledge Network (CDKN)