Wednesday 22nd November 2023, London - Global Witness is delighted to announce a new grant of £3.3 million from Arcadia. The five-year grant (2023–2028) will support the work of the Forests Campaign, which aims to establish greater protection for climate-critical forests around the world and the communities that rely on them by exposing and restricting finance for deforesting businesses. It will enable the team to build on significant progress achieved over the past three years in pushing for new regulations preventing forest destruction.
The production of agricultural commodities like beef, palm oil and soy are driving forest loss, land conversion and ecosystem degradation in tropical forest-rich countries at alarming rates. Yet global financial institutions currently face few repercussions for their role in razing the world’s vital forests – and continue to profit from this destruction.
Cassie Dummett, Forests Campaign co-lead at Global Witness, said: “To stay within 1.5 °C of global warming, we must dismantle the systems that perpetrate environmental and human rights abuses. Major causes of carbon emissions - of which deforestation and its financing is a significant contributor – must be addressed.
“Time and time again, we have shown that voluntary initiatives are not enough to stem the flow of money from household name financial institutions to deforesting businesses overseas. Regulation that prohibits this is a vital step to ensuring the world’s climate-critical forests are kept standing, and catastrophic climate change averted.”
The new grant from Arcadia will allow the team to continue its crucial work investigating and exposing the flows of money from financial institutions to deforesting agribusinesses operating in the world’s forests. These investigations help provide the compelling evidence vital in influencing and strengthening environmental and financial public policy, supporting the team to advocate for change.
In recent years, Global Witness has brought global attention to the scale of funding driving forest destruction. The organisation’s Deforestation Dividends report revealed that between 2016 and 2020, lenders and investors based in the EU made deals worth €30.6 billion with just 20 agribusinesses accused of deforestation, generating an estimated €401 million in profit.
Its investigation Cash, Cattle and the Gran Chaco showed how major European financiers headquartered in France, Spain and The Netherlands held substantial shares in, or provided financial services to, meatpacking giants Minerva and Frigorifico Concepción - with Spanish bank Santander increasing its holdings in Minerva by a staggering 1,000% in the last two years. Both these meatpackers have been accused of links to deforestation in the Gran Chaco Forest in Paraguay - but deny the accusations.
There is growing recognition of the role finance plays in driving the climate and nature crisis - and evidence that self-regulation is failing– but governments in key financial centres need to pass legislation curbing financial investment into supply chains responsible for deforestation.
This year, the EU introduced a new law banning the import of commodities produced on deforested land, with Global Witness helping to secure a ground-breaking review of the role in European finance driving deforestation as part of that package. The organisation was key to achieving a similar legal review in the UK.
Senior Global Policy Advisor at Global Witness, Alexandria Reid, said: “Bringing an end to the financing of deforestation is one of our most imminent climate targets, offering a vital lifeline to forest communities and Earth's ecosystems. With this grant, we will continue to reveal the billions flowing to deforesting companies from the US, UK, EU and China, while joining with partners to push for precedent-setting new laws that prevent nature loss - as well as the enforcement of existing frameworks.”
Global Witness’ approach to this work will be supported and informed by partnerships with affected communities and civil society organisations in countries with threatened climate-critical forests. These partnerships will ensure those most affected by tropical deforestation are at the centre of solutions to address nature loss.
Arcadia is a charitable foundation that works to protect nature, preserve cultural heritage and promote open access to knowledge. Since 2002 Arcadia has awarded more than $1 billion to organizations around the world.