Written by 10 h 00 min Environment and Climate, Front page, Press release-en, Strategic litigation

Indigenous organisations and NGO coalition warn top French supermarket Casino: do not sell beef from deforestation in Brazil and Colombia – or face French law

Paris, 21 September 2020 – An international coalition of associations (Canopée, CPT, Envol Vert, Mighty Earth, Notre Affaire à Tous, and Sherpa) and representative Indigenous organisations from Colombia and Brazil (OPIAC, COIAB, FEPIPA and FEPOIMT) is calling on the Casino Group to take all necessary measures to exclude beef from deforestation and grabbing of Indigenous territories in its supply chains in Brazil, Colombia, and beyond. They also reserve the right to seek compensation for any resulting damages.

Casino is one of the largest and most influential supermarket groups in France, as well as Brazil (Pão de Açúcar) and Colombia (Grupo Éxito)- with massive purchases of meat worldwide. 

Cattle ranching is the main source of deforestation in the Amazon

According to data from the INPE (Brazilian National Institute for Space Research), deforestation reached more 9,216 km2 in the Brazilian Amazon from August 2019 to July 2020, which is the key benchmark to observe the evolution of deforestation. This is 34.5% more than the previous period.

Cattle ranching is the main driver of this forest loss. Investigations carried out for nearly 10 years have repeatedly revealed the clear responsibility of beef slaughterhouses and distributors. Not only do they regularly source beef from recently deforested areas, but they turn a blind eye to suppliers’ “cattle laundering” practices that are aimed at circumventing Brazilian laws. These dodgy practices allow operations responsible for environmental crimes to sell their cattle ties to deforestation with impunity.

Meat from deforestation in Casino supermarkets in Brazil

The Casino Group is the top supermarket in Brazil through its subsidiary “Grupo Pão de Açúcar”. It represents 15% of the market share in Brazil, and Casino’s latin american operations account for nearly half of the group’s worldwide revenues (47%).

In June 2020, the NGO Envol Vert published a damning investigation highlighting evidence of recent deforestation and land grabbing practices carried out using samples of meat products sold in several Casino Group supermarkets in Brazil.

According to Boris Patentreger, founder of the association Envol Vert, “these investigations prove the links between farms involved in illegal deforestation and products sold in Casino supermarkets. These farms alone represent 4497 hectares of deforestation.”

Is Casino in violation of the French law on duty of vigilance?

Since 2017, the Casino Group has been subject to a new French law on the duty of vigilance, which requires it to take appropriate measures to prevent serious human rights violations, environmental harms, and health and safety harms to persons resulting from its operations, activities, and/or those of its subsidiaries, suppliers and subcontractors. While the Casino Group explicitly recognizes that the beef supply chain in Brazil is exposed to extremely serious risks, its policy in this area is clearly flawed.

According to Sandra Cossart, Executive Director of Sherpa, “the mere fact that Casino declares in its vigilance plan that 100% of its suppliers have adhered to its policy on deforestation, while these same suppliers are regularly condemned for their involvement in the deforestation, shows that this policy is either inadequate, or not implemented, or both.”

Etelle Higonnet, Senior Campaign Director at Mighty Earth, added “Casino is buying beef from suppliers like JBS, which is one of the worst forest-destroying companies on the planet – and the biggest meat company worldwide. JBS has become notorious for corruption through the Car Wash scandal and its demonstrated track record of involvement in modern slavery, deforestation, Amazon fires, and Indigenous land grabbing. However, thanks to the new French law, Casino must finally take real responsibility for JBS and all its other meat suppliers driving deforestation or rights abuses. Indeed, all French supermarkets are now on notice: we’re serious about holding them accountable for respecting the law.

For Célia Jouayed, of the Notre Affaire à Tous association, “we need large corporations like Casino to fully implement the law on the duty of vigilance, which requires them to take concrete measures to prevent risks to human rights, the environment, and health – not just to identify risks on paper.”

For lawyers Sébastien Mabile and François de Cambiaire of the ‘Seattle’ law firm, which is advising the civil society groups in this case, “this is a historic action against the Casino group, based on a pioneering law which will allow a French judge to prescribe necessary measures to halt Amazon destruction by French companies and repair damages suffered.

The organizations formally ask the Casino Group to respect its legal obligations by taking all necessary measures to exclude all beef resulting from deforestation from its supply chain. If the company does not comply within the 3 months provided for by French law, they intend to refer the matter to the competent court.

Members of the International Coalition :
Envol Vert 
Mighty Earth
Notre Affaire à Tous
OPIAC (Organización Nacional de los Pueblos Indígenas de la Amazonia Colombiana)
COIAB (Coordination of Indigenous Organizations of the Brazilian Amazon)
FEPIPA (Federation of Indigenous Peoples of Pará) 
FEPOIMT (Federation of Indigenous Peoples of Mato Grosso) 
CPT (Pastoral Commission of the Earth)

Last modified: 11 March 2021