Investment fund drops Brazil’s meat firm JBS over environment

Butcher in London
Photo by Leonardo Carvalho on Unsplash

The asset management division of the Nordic region’s largest bank said Tuesday it has divested from the world’s biggest meat processing company, Brazil’s JBS, over the destruction of the Amazon rainforest and other scandals.

Nordea Asset Management, a 230-billion-euro fund, said the decision was taken by its responsible investments committee and applies to around 40 million euros in total.

The Helsinki-based fund said the divestment was decided earlier this month. But it was only made public after an investigative journalism consortium published a report Monday accusing JBS of illicitly sourcing cattle from ranches blacklisted for destroying the Amazon.

It was the fifth time in just over a year that JBS, which exports around the world, has been accused of “cattle laundering,” in which animals from a blacklisted ranch are transferred to another to dodge a ban on sales.

JBS’s response to outbreaks of the new coronavirus at its slaughterhouses, past corruption scandals and “poor engagement” were also factors in the decision, Nordea Asset Management said in a statement.

“After a period of engagement with the company… we did not feel that we were seeing the response that we were looking for” on “numerous” issues, said Nordea’s head of responsible investment, Eric Pedersen. “As JBS shares have not been a preferred investment of ours for a long time… we did not have very much left at the end.”

Brazil faces mounting pressure to slow surging deforestation after massive fires devastated the Amazon last year, often set to clear land for ranching and farming.

Nordea is one of 29 global investment firms managing close to $4 trillion in assets that last month wrote an open letter to President Jair Bolsonaro urging him to change government policies blamed for accelerating the destruction of the world’s largest rainforest.

“JBS does not comment on decisions by investors, but regrets it had not recently been approached by the fund in question to directly present all the measures and actions demonstrating its full commitment to transparency and sustainability,” the Brazilian company said in a statement sent to AFP.

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