Friday, October 22, 2010

Corporations, conservation, and the green movement

As counter-intuitive as it may seem, corporate consolidation—a trend since the 1990s—is also making it easier for green groups to go after companies. As Jason Clay, Senior Vice President of Market Transformation at WWF, noted in his July TED talk in Oxford, convincing leading companies to change the way they source commodities can have a substantial impact on global supply chains. "100 companies control 25 percent of the trade of all 15 of the most significant commodities on the planet," he said. "We can get our arms around 100 companies." For example, during the summer of 2009 Greenpeace released a report linking deforestation in the Amazon to major consumer products including fast-food hamburgers, Gucci handbags, and Nike shoes. The fallout was immediate—Brazil's cattle industry, which is the largest in the world and a dominant force in Brazilian politics—was brought to a standstill virtually overnight. Brazilian cattle giants saw their offices raided and loans suspended or revoked. They also faced stepped-up threats from the government—led by the public prosecutor of the state of Pará—and a sharp public rebuke from some of their biggest buyers including Walmart, Nike, and Timberland, who demanded greater accountability for their supply chains. Under pressure from their customers and the government, Brazilian cattle processors and traders fell into line, declaring new sourcing policies and moratoriums on deforestation. The hottest commodity in the Brazilian Amazon became credible supply-chain management, spawning a rush to develop certification systems and land registries for “responsible” ranches. "The industry—from Nike and Adidas to the slaughter plants—is under pressure to have a clean supply chain," said John Carter, a rancher who runs Alianca da Terra, a Brazilian NGO that is developing a land registry to support a certification system for the cattle industry. "Greenpeace essentially created a federal mandate that everyone had to come into compliance via a land registry." The push for reform is being led by big buyers. Walmart Brazil, the largest beef buyer in the country, and Grupo Pão de Açúcar, a big supermarket chain, have set up the first traceability system for beef, allowing customers with a cell phone or an Internet connection to track packaged meat back to its ranch of origin...more

Pay attention. It's all there - premises registration, traceability, certification - mandated by the buyers and run by the private sector.

So pick your poison: private or public, buyers or bureaucrats.

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