Cattle grazing on pasture in a cattle property inside the Rio Ouro Preto Reserve, in Rondônia state, in July 2019.

Brazil: Auditor calls out meat packer JBS’s use of its audits to claim compliant supply chain in the Amazon

A former auditor monitoring the supply chain of leading global meat packer JBS has called out the company for falsely claiming that its operations in Brazil’s Amazon region are deforestation-free, Amnesty International revealed today.
In correspondence with Amnesty International, the Norway-based independent auditor DNV GL Business Assurance, contracted by JBS to audit its supply chain between 2017 and 2019, has confirmed that it never audited JBS’s indirect suppliers in Brazil and has noted that “the assessment report issued by DNV GL cannot be used as evidence of good practices throughout the entire supply chain.”

“The auditor DNV GL has essentially called out JBS for using its audits to gloss over the fact that JBS has failed to monitor its entire supply chain,” said Richard Pearshouse, Head of Crisis and the Environment at Amnesty International.

The auditor DNV GL has essentially called out JBS for using its audits to gloss over the fact that JBS has failed to monitor its entire supply chain.

Richard Pearshouse, Head of Crisis and the Environment at Amnesty International

“Once again, this emphasizes that JBS only monitors the final farms it buys cattle from, not where those cattle grazed beforehand. As our research has shown, in several cases in 2019 this included cattle grazed on illegal farms on deforested areas of protected Amazon rainforest.

“Amnesty International reiterates its call on JBS to promptly put in place an effective monitoring system of its entire supply chain, including its indirect suppliers, to ensure its beef supply is actually and certifiably deforestation free.”

The correspondence from DNV GL notes: “Indirect suppliers have not been assessed and declared deforestation free by DNV GL. JBS did not have systems in place to trace the indirect supply chain; thus indirect suppliers were not assessed during the audit. The Public Livestock Commitment does cover the indirect supply chain, but JBS had not implemented systems to meet this requirement.”

On 15 July Amnesty International released a report, From Forest to FarmlandCattle illegally grazed in Brazil’s Amazon found in JBS’s supply chain. Relying on extensive field research, analysis of government data and expert satellite imagery analysis, the report reveals how JBS sourced cattle which had been illegally grazed in three protected areas of the Amazon in northern Brazil’s Rondônia state in 2019.

Hours after the report’s publication, Brazil’s federal public prosecutor in Rondônia state announced her office would launch an investigation into Amnesty International’s findings about JBS.

Before publishing its report, Amnesty International sought specific information from JBS about whether the company had processed any cattle from farms located in the three protected areas. The company responded: “We do not purchase cattle from any farm involved in the illegal grazing within protected areas,” and that it has “an unequivocal zero deforestation approach throughout its supply chain.”

JBS also stated: “Independent audits conducted by leading global auditors DNV-GL and BDO over the past six years reveal that over 99.9% of livestock purchases by JBS, from farms located in the Amazon region, meet the company’s social environmental criteria. This includes the zero-deforestation criteria.”

JBS did not answer a question about monitoring indirect suppliers, instead noting that “the traceability of the entire beef supply chain is an industry-wide challenge and a complex task.”

Amnesty International did not find any evidence indicating that JBS is directly involved in human rights abuses in the three sites investigated. However, in all three, recent illegal land seizures have led to a loss of traditional lands, which are protected under Brazilian law. Indigenous land rights are protected under international human rights law and commercial cattle ranching is prohibited by law in the three sites.