How global corporations enable violations
of Indigenous peoples' rights in the Brazilian Amazon
There is no doubt that both the illegal encroachment across Indigenous Territories and the unrestrained increase in the destruction of Brazilian biomes are directly connected to the benefits reaped by the private sector in extractive industries. The harmful invasions of Indigenous lands by squatters, miners, and loggers leave a trail of environmental destruction and racially-motivated murders of the peoples native to the land.
This war on our lives led us to prepare this important document with Amazon Watch for the second year in a row. This report merges the different strengths of APIB, Amazon Watch, and other allies to investigate and cross-check data. It explains how companies operating in Brazil and international corporations collaborate, increasing threats to Brazil’s Indigenous peoples, worsening an already precarious situation, and also playing a fundamental role in increasing myriad forms of environmental destruction.
This report is crucial for the Indigenous movement in Brazil and a milestone that validates our fight to guarantee and secure respect for the rights of our peoples. It is also a powerful tool in conversations with foreign governments, buyers of goods from Brazil, and global investors, because it clearly outlines the harmful consequences of large corporations' supply chains that operate without due diligence.
Executive Coordinating Committee
Association of Brazil’s Indigenous Peoples (APIB)
This report, organized by the Association of Brazil’s Indigenous Peoples (APIB) in partnership with Amazon Watch, is based on research by the De Olho Nos Ruralistas (Ruralista Watch - DONR) investigative journalism outlet and the Dutch research consultancy on sustainability, Profundo.
There are eleven case studies from the Amazonian states of Pará, Maranhão, Mato Grosso, Roraima, and Amazonas, involving the mining companies Vale, Anglo American, Belo Sun, and Potassio do Brasil; agribusiness companies Cargill, JBS, Cosan/ Raízen; and energy companies Energisa Mato Grosso, Bom Futuro Energia, Equatorial Energia Maranhão, and Eletronorte. Case studies of mining company Potassio do Brasil and energy company Bom Futuro Energia are also included to provide additional examples of the involvement of companies in conflicts within Indigenous Territories, but were not financially linked to the six major US firms.
This report identifies three key sectors of Brazil’s economy responsible for conflicts with Amazonian Indigenous peoples:
mining, agribusiness, and energy.
Such conflicts stem from the private sector’s exploitation of Indigenous lands, wherein companies ignore direct attacks on these lands by land-grabbers and other local actors, as well as systematically disregard laws that protect Indigenous lands and rights, especially the right to Free, Prior, and Informed Consent.
Based on case studies from each sector, we have identified the following Brazilian and international companies involved, directly or indirectly, in situations involving land conflicts and violations of socio-environmental and indigenous rights in the Brazilian Amazon since 2017, and which also depend on the patronage of international buyers and/or investors.
The Role of Banks, Investment Funds, and Shareholders
The violations exposed in this report would not be possible without international financing provided by major players of global finance to companies contributing to the destruction of the largest tropical rainforest on the planet.
To hold each one of them accountable, it is necessary to reveal who they are, which companies they support, how much and in what ways they invest, and what responsibilities they have or have not assumed, in order to ensure that the entire supply chain they finance is free of deforestation, violations of Indigenous lands, and environmental crimes in general.
The trillions of dollars these institutions manage, which come from hundreds of thousands of people—whether they be bank clients or individual investors—represent a powerful lever for applying pressure on the giants of agribusiness, mining, and the energy industry to make it loud and clear that they can no longer neglect their environmental and social responsibilities.
Around the world, people are watching how corporations and governments respond to the climate crisis, and will no longer accept the business-as-usual scenario that endangers the future of our planet.
This report is a call to action.
The Top Six Investors
Among the world of asset management firms and investment banks, the Top Six major financial corporations analyzed in this report – BlackRock, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Vanguard, Bank of America, and Dimensional Fund Advisors – together contributed more than US$18 billion to the companies scrutinized in the report’s selected case studies between 2017 and 2020.
We draw attention to these six institutions due to the fact that each one of them invests in more than half of the companies cited in the report, and because they are U.S.-based corporations, where Amazon Watch is headquartered, which facilitates the possibility of greater dialogue, engagement, and campaigning. (See the Methodology section for more details.)
Although many of these corporations have made public promises and commitments to environmental, social, and, in some cases, Indigenous rights, they continue to invest in companies with histories of social and environmental rights violations.
These corporations must be held responsible, their investors must know what their money is contributing to, and the general public must also be aware of. It is essential to expose the violations in which these firms are complicit to show that the environmental and human rights commitments that these firms claim to hold are often no more than hypothetical. The time has come to act and move from talk to practice.
In addition to these six American institutions, our research also names various other corporations based in different countries, including prominent banks and investment funds based in France, Japan, England, Spain, China, Canada, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Switzerland, Germany, Australia, and many other countries beyond Brazil. A fuller list of other institutions identified during the research for this report and information about their investments in the companies mentioned in the cases studies can be found at the end of this document in the Appendix.
For the second year in a row, the Association of Brazil's Indigenous Peoples (APIB), in partnership with Amazon Watch, is revealing a network of national and international actors involved in conflicts in Indigenous territories, land invasions, deforestation, and human rights violations in the Brazilian Amazon.
The commitments found in governmental and private sector policies, which financial institutions claim to adopt – if they even do make such claims – can no longer just be documents lost in the tangle of information displayed in each entity’s website. These commitments need to be real and immediately implemented.
This report outlines the following recommendations to bridge the gap between policy and practice:
For the companies operating in or with projects in Brazil:
- Guarantee that your activities respect Indigenous rights and the right to Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC) in all circumstances, in accordance with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and Convention 169 of the International Labor Organization.
- Adopt a zero-tolerance policy for any acts of violence against environmental or land defenders committed in areas where the company operates.
- Refrain from any and all activities that may contribute to deforestation and threats to Indigenous rights and lands.
- Exclude from your production chains all direct or indirect suppliers involved with deforestation, invasions of Indigenous lands, or other threats described in this report.
- Make internal processes for product tracing publicly available that allow for transparency along entire supply chains, down to the smallest administrative units, for better monitoring by government regulators and civil society.
For importing companies:
- Commit to zero-deforestation policies and policies guaranteeing respect for Indigenous and human rights, with verifiable targets and publicly available progress reports.
- Exclude companies from your supply chain that are directly or indirectly involved with deforestation, invasions of Indigenous lands, human rights violations, or other threats described in this report.
- Refine mechanisms to control and monitor production chains to improve the tracking of commodities all the way from their sources, ensuring transparency for all parties.
- Require that supplying companies that have violated the above policies make immediate adjustments to ensure that their supply chains are free of these violations within one year or face severed business ties.
For financial institutions:
- Commit to zero-deforestation policies and policies guaranteeing respect for Indigenous and human rights, with verifiable targets and progress reports made publicly available.
- Create or strengthen internal control and monitoring mechanisms to ensure that no investments occur in areas involving environmental destruction, human rights violations, and conflicts in Indigenous Territories.
- Require that companies in your portfolios develop binding policies that safeguard Indigenous rights, including requiring companies to obtain Free, Prior, and Informed Consent, eliminate deforestation in their production chains and adopt transparency measures related to their suppliers as criteria for receiving financing or investments.
- Conduct periodic due diligence specific to companies in your portfolios based on the highest standards of human and socio-environmental rights, regardless of the level of the financial institution's direct or indirect relationship with these companies.
- Exclude companies from portfolios that present systematic violations of human and socio-environmental rights or that refuse to implement comprehensive policies to prevent deforestation and that respect Indigenous rights.
For governments and policymakers around the world:
- Create monitoring, control, and transparency mechanisms for financial institutions, commodity traders, and importers that have a direct or indirect relationship with the Brazilian Amazon.
- Demand that products imported by each country are not contributing to the destruction of the Amazon or to violations of the rights of Indigenous and traditional communities.
- In case of recurring breaches and violations, stop the importation of products from said companies, act to prevent these companies from receiving any further financing by public banks, and end subsidies and other incentives for financing from private financiers.
- Refrain from entering into trade agreements, including the EU-Mercosur agreement, until robust, verifiable safeguards are in place for ensuring the preservation of Indigenous rights and territories in the Brazilian Amazon.
The following sections offer context to decipher the complex Brazilian socio-environmental, political, and economic conditions that in the last years, during Bolsonaro’ government, gave rise to the destructive trends facing the Amazon and its Indigenous and traditional communities.
The Amazon in Crisis
The world is witnessing the torching of the Amazon, an environmental tragedy that is now destroying untouched forests.
Deforestation has already reached 17 percent in all of the Amazon Basin and almost 20 percent in the Brazilian Amazon. The rise in deforestation, combined with global climate change, can result in the rapid conversion of the rainforest to a savannah, releasing large amounts of carbon into the atmosphere, further exacerbating climate chaos. Scientists report evidence based on climate cycles and rampant deforestation in the Amazon Basin, that the rainforest is reaching a point of no return.
Nobody defends the preservation of life in the rainforest better than Indigenous and traditional peoples. Studies show that Indigenous Territories (TIs) are the definitive barrier against deforestation and forest degradation...
Brazil's Political and
The Brazilian economic crisis, which has worsened, especially since 2015, is experiencing its most critical period due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, two of the country’s most powerful economic pillars - agribusiness and mining - have not been shaken because they are considered “essential” and enjoy the direct support of a large part of federal representatives and the Brazilian government.
A survey carried out by Brazil's Confederation of Agriculture and Livestock (CNA) shows that the sector’s Gross Value of Production will reach US$129.8 billion (728.6 billion BRL) in 2020, an increase of 11.8 percent over 2019, which will be the highest figure in the sector's history. In the midst of the pandemic, the expectation is that the agribusiness sector will account for 23.6 percent of the country's total GDP. In 2019 it was 21.4 percent.
Soy and corn were the flagships of agriculture. Of the expected US$129.8 billion (728.6 billion BRL) gain, US$31.2 billion (175 billion BRL) will correspond to the revenue from oil seeds (up 13 percent over 2019) and US$16 billion (90 billion BRL) from corn (up 32.9 percent from the previous year). Beef revenue is projected to be US$24.7 billion (139 billion BRL), down 19.5 percent from 2019…
The Brazilian Amazon’s Indigenous and traditional peoples are on the front lines of the planet’s spiraling human rights and environmental crisis , fighting to defend the rainforest and their homes, cultures, and ways of life from threats that also endanger humanity’s collective welfare.
With this report, APIB and Amazon Watch aim to compel complicit global institutions to reform, using their power and influence to ensure adherence to rigorous socio-environmental standards throughout their supply chains and portfolios.