Condemnation of Barclays’ support for the notorious agricultural giant JBS goes back years (see here for instance.) Strongly connected to illegal deforestation, the devastating environmental impact of the company’s meat production, alongside corruption and human rights scandals, has led some investors to sever ties completely, and to ‘red rated’ status from the likes of Aviva. Mighty Earth’s Soy and Cattle Deforestation Tracker gave JBS its lowest score of 1/100, estimating it was linked to 100,711 acres of deforestation in the two years since March 2019, of which 74,701 acres was potential illegal clearance. But Barclays continues to provide corporate loans, credit facilities and bond services to the company, and a new report from BankTrack, Feedback and Mighty Earth chronicles its ‘toxic relationship’ with the bank.
Having stated early in 2019 that the bank has “no appetite for providing financial services” to companies involved in illegal logging, illegal or uncontrolled fire in forestry or plantation operations, acts of violence against or exploitation of people and local communities, or operations that do not comply with applicable laws and regulations - all of which have been associated with JBS - Barclays might have been expected to introduce policies that preclude financing such a notorious industrial livestock company. But its revised Forestry and Agricultural Commodities Statement does little more than express regret for for the destruction of ecosystems, setting ‘requirements’ for beef companies that specify merely commitments and self-regulation. Given the history of bribery and corruption controversies surrounding JBS summarised in the report, these hardly constitute a robust approach to stopping the funding of runaway deforestation.
Since UK law does not yet hold British financial institutions responsible for deforestation investments, and Barclays’ new policy amounts simply to looking the other way, the long-standing ‘toxic relationship’ between the bank and JBS looks set to continue, with ensuing environmental devastation, human rights abuses, and acceleration of catastrophic climate change.