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Some of you may remember my blog last year that described the steps being taken by M&S and industry partners to halt deforestation in the Cerrado biome in Brazil.  At that time 23 Companies signed a Statement of Support (SoS) for the Cerrado Manifesto, I’m delighted to report that support has continued to grow with 62 companies becoming signatories, a massive achievement. 

The native vegetation in the Cerrado continues to be vulnerable to large scale conversion from soy farming and cattle ranching, and it is difficult to see this changing without a clear message from business that it must stop.  The signatories to the SoS understand the need for development but want to see soy and cattle expansion being directed to the substantial areas of land that have already been cleared or degraded.  They also know that improving the intensity of cattle production will dramatically reduce the pressure on natural habitats, a win-win scenario for producers and buyers.

The SoS Steering Group are now developing an Implementation Plan to guide signatories to a range of actions they can take to support the goal.  This takes research, consultation and a deep understanding of the issues, but great progress is being made and already we are seeing other global initiatives develop as a result of this drive for green development in Brazil.

Today, M&S, along with 30 other businesses and trade associations, participated in the first UK Roundtable on Sustainable Soy.  The Roundtable responds to an M&S led industry call for action on soy and creates a ‘pre-competitive’ space for companies and industry associations to work together, with the support of Government, towards only sustainable soy being used in the UK. 

The value of this should not be underestimated.  As well as a space for conversations about how companies can best work together, the participation and support of the UK Government brings great quality research to inform business decision making, and technical resource to move solutions forward faster.  UK Government advisors can help us build strong and mutually respectful relationships with Brazilian government agencies, at a local and a national level.  Fundamentally we all share the same goal of economic prosperity that respects nature and human rights; a shared articulation of these common goals is needed as discussions begin on what good development and conservation planning will look like in the Cerrado.

So I congratulate the UK government for moving this initiative forward and showing leadership on how business and government can work together to ensure our food supplies are secure, resilient, and of course, deforestation free.