US commodities giant given the malign moniker amid tide of illegal deforestation, child labour and environmental abuse allegations across its global supply chains
Mighty Earth claim that “Cargill has exhibited a disturbing and repetitive pattern of deception and destruction.”
A withering new
report from environmental campaigners Mighty Earth has labelled US
agribusiness conglomerate Cargill “the worst company in the world”.
The rap sheet against the US’s
largest privately held company is long. The report outlines cases of illegal
deforestation, child labour and environmental abuses in its global soy, meat,
palm oil and cocoa supply chains to back up the “audacious claim”.
“Cargill has exhibited a
disturbing and repetitive pattern of deception and destruction,” the July
report said. “[I]ts practices have ranged from violating trade embargoes and
price fixing, to ignoring health codes and creating markets for goods produced
with child and forced labour.
“Despite repeated and highly
publicized promises to the contrary, Cargill has continued to bulldoze ancient
ecosystems as it can within the bounds of the law — and, too often, outside of
those bounds as well.”
There have been dozens of
allegations of malpractice against the commodities trader over the past two
From illegal land grabbing in
Colombia and colluding with security forces to evict locals from palm oil
concessions in Indonesia to enabling the use of child labour on cocoa farms in
The charges in Cote d’Ivoire and
Ghana – that Cargill knowingly purchased cocoa from farms that used child
slaves – were filed in 2005 and in October 2018 a
US court ruled that a lawsuit could proceed.
The Minnesota-headquartered firm,
which has annual revenues north of $100 billion and counts McDonalds, Walmart
and JBS among its clients, is also facing mounting pressure over its soy
cultivation in Brazil’s Cerrado – the world’s most wildlife-rich savannah.
It is estimated that nearly half
of the Cerrado’s natural vegetation – about 88 million hectares – has
been destroyed. In Matopiba, a vast area called the ‘frontier of vegetation
conversion’, 62 per cent of agricultural expansion, much of it for soy,
replaced native vegetation between 2007 and 2014.
Cargill has a significant soy
presence in the Cerrado and although the firm signed a pledge in 2014 to end
deforestation in its supply chains by 2020, tangible progress has failed to
The firm, along with industry
giants Bunge, ADM, Louis Dreyfus, COFCO and Amaggi, exported 57
per cent of all soy from Brazil in 2016 and is associated with two-thirds
of the total deforestation risk directly linked to soy expansion, mainly in the
in June that it and the industry would fail to meet its 2020 pledge
and followed this up with a defiant rejection of the mooted ‘Soy Moratorium’
planned for the Cerrado.
In an open letter to local
producers published on 24 June, its supply chain lead for Latin America said
any such limits on the expansion of soy planting into new forest areas –
similar to that introduced in the Amazon in 2006 to stem deforestation – would
be detrimental to the sector.
“The [planned] moratorium does
not address social, economic and ultimately environmental challenges and is
very likely to have consequences – albeit unintentionally – for farmers and
communities dependent on agriculture for their livelihoods,” Helio
FAIRR, an initiative promoting
sustainable supply chain practices among investors, created a
Manifesto, of which the moratorium is a part, in 2017 to pressure commodity
traders and buyers to halt deforestation in the Cerrado.
Mighty Earth said of Cargill that
they had “never encountered a company that has such difficulty translating
high-level commitments into action”.
“Cargill has continued to drive
the destruction of pristine landscapes, remaining one of the worst actors on
the world stage, and one of the greatest threats to native ecosystems across
the globe,” the report added.