The Rainforest Action Network wants the world's investors to know something about U.S. agribusiness giants Archer Daniels Midland, Bunge and Cargill, which they refer to as "the ABC's of rainforest destruction."
The group accuses these businesses of contributing to human rights abuses and the destruction of tropical rainforests in South America, Southeast Asia by buying and selling commodity crops like soybeans, which are planted on cleared rainforest lands. As demand for soy and other crops have grown, and other forces have conspired to destroy rainforests, Indonesia and Brazil have become the the world's No. 3 and No. 4 emitters of greenhouse gases, right behind China and the United States.
That's because the carbon is stored in trees and other forest dwellers. Cut down or burn those trees and you not only release that pent-up carbon, but also lose the ability to capture future carbon. Further, because nutrients cycle high in the canopy of rainforests, the soil is typically poor, and can turn to a barren desert-like condition within years of being cleared.
In other words, from the perspective of the climate, it's a bad investment.
"Rainforests are our last and best defense against catastrophic climate change," said Leila Salazar-Lopez, director of RANs new Rainforest Agribusiness Campaign. "ADM, Bunge and Cargill have a responsibility to stop converting the worlds remaining rainforests into factory farms and to immediately address the grave human rights abuses associated with their operations."
While any connection between these U.S. businesses and rainforest destruction is indirect, the Rainforest Action Network is following a tried and true technique: Namely, following the money. If the investment dollars don't flow to projects that carve up the rainforest, those projects are much less likely to happen. In that sense, this move -- while flashy in its use of billboards and advertising to try to demonize these companies -- is consistent with a larger movement toward socially responsible investing that considers not only the return on investment, but also the environmental cost those dividends.
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