BNP Paribas SA tightened its deforestation policy for companies doing business in the Amazon rainforest region and the Cerrado, a vast tropical savanna in South America where soy and cattle are raised.

Paris-based BNP, one of Europe’s biggest banks, said Monday that it won’t finance clients growing or buying soybeans or beef on land converted or cleared after 2008 in the Amazon and will require “full traceability” of soy and beef, both directly and indirectly, by 2025. Since 2006, trade groups had annually renewed a voluntary Amazon soy moratorium for deforested land that was extended indefinitely in 2016.

BNP also said it would “encourage” its clients not to produce or buy beef or soybeans from land converted or cleared after Jan. 1, 2020, in the Cerrado, which is one of the world’s most species-rich tropical savannas. Agriculture has already cleared more than half of the Cerrado’s native vegetation, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists.

“We are confident that similar commitments will be made by other institutions in the near future to ensure a real positive impact on the protection of biodiversity,” Antoine Sire, head of corporate engagement at BNP, said in prepared remarks.

Some environmental activists said BNP’s new policies were welcome, but the goals come too late and don’t explain how it will meet the targets.

“BNP Paribas has understood the importance of imposing a cut-off date on soy traders, but no immediate demand is made to guarantee improved practices over the next few years,” Klervi Le Guenic, campaigner at French nonprofit Canopée Forêts Vivantes, said. “As it stands, BNP Paribas is giving traders 5 more years to clear forests with impunity.”

In response, a BNP spokesperson said the bank’s policy is broader than the soy moratorium among traders since it covers soy producers and soy and beef traders in the Amazon and Cerrado.

“Our policy, covering those two sensitive areas, will have an impact on large number of small producers, as they are part of clients’ supply chain,” the spokesperson said.

As part of its policy to “encourage” clients to not produce or buy beef or soy on land that was deforested after Jan 1., 2020, in the Cerrado, the spokesperson said BNP “will closely monitor its clients’ progress against improvement in supply-chain traceability and application of the Cerrado cut-off date.”

“The fight against deforestation needs clear decisions and this is what we are doing with our policy,” the spokesperson said. “The local situation is complex, so it is important to remain realistic.”

By Dieter Holger

Write to Dieter Holger at; @dieterholger

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