More Cargill-Linked Deforestation Unearthed; Environmental, Human Rights Organizations Call on Family Owners to Act
September 6, 2023–Today, a coalition of environmental and human rights organizations published open letters in the hometown newspapers of members of the Cargill-MacMillan family calling on them to eliminate the destruction of nature and human rights abuses in the supply chain of their company, Cargill Inc. Stand.Earth, Amazon Watch, Global Witness, Rainforest Foundation Norway, Eko, International Rights Advocates, Earthsight, and Mighty Earth signed the advertisements.
“These local ads reach out to the Cargill-MacMillan family directly to let them know that the world needs them to step up and pull their weight,” said Todd Paglia, Executive Director, Stand.earth. “It’s time for them to act – for the sake of their family’s legacy and for the future of the planet.”
At the same time, AidEnvironment and Global Witness released two new reports that, when taken together, link Cargill’s suppliers in the regions where the company operates to the burning or clearing of 169,667 acres (68,662 hectares) of forest and savannah in Brazil, Indonesia and Bolivia – an area of forest destruction more than four times the city of Minneapolis, Minnesota, where Cargill and many of the family members are based.
Global Witness found Cargill soy suppliers in Bolivia responsible for 21,192 hectares (52,366 acres) of forest destruction in the past seven years. Bolivia has the world’s third highest rate of deforestation after Brazil and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Cargill is the largest privately owned company in the United States and the largest agribusiness company in the world. The Cargill-MacMillan family, who own 87% of the company, is one of the wealthiest families in the US and contains more billionaires than any other family on Earth.
In June, STAND.earth kicked off a campaign calling on the family to take responsibility for the company’s actions and set it on a better path. They launched the campaign with a full-page open letter to the family in the New York Times and Minneapolis Star Tribune and a press conference in Wayzata (MN), the town where the Cargill-MacMillans have their investment company, Waycrosse Inc. At the time of writing, the family has not responded.
In addition to nature destruction, the campaign is calling attention to child labor in Cargill’s supply chains, which is endemic in regions of Africa that provide Cargill with cheap cocoa. Studies have shown that the company does business with partners worldwide that violate the rights of youth and Indigenous Peoples, and are guilty of corruption, bribery, violence and intimidation.
“Put simply, it is outrageous that in 2023 one of the richest families in America is still profiting from African children laboring on plantations,” said Matt Jacobson, Campaign Director, Stand.Earth. “It’s high time for the family to take accountability and lead their company into the future.”
In August, Cargill announced record revenues of $177 billion dollars on the back of global food price inflation. Approximately $1 billion of these earnings will be distributed among roughly 20 members of the Cargill-MacMillan family.
As the recent Stand.earth report “A Grain of Truth” documents, Cargill has committed numerous times to eliminating human rights abuses and the destruction of nature from its supply chain, but it has not followed through on these pledges:
- In 2001, Cargill publicly acknowledged the problem of forced child labor in the cocoa industry and committed to eliminating it and the other “worst forms” of child labor in the production of chocolate.
- In 2014, Cargill acknowledged the agriculture sector’s significant role in the destruction of the world’s forests and promised to end it.
- In 2022, Cargill expanded that commitment to include the protection of critical natural ecosystems other than forests as well.