A corporation that aims to be the world’s biggest supplier of ‘sustainable’ cacao -- the main ingredient in chocolate -- is being accused by ALERT scientists of destroying large expanses of biodiversity-rich forest in Peru. ALERT issued this press release today.
The Company, United Cacao, previously raised 10 million pounds on the London Stock Exchange, and is now hoping to raise additional funds on the Lima Stock Exchange in Peru to expand its operations in the Peruvian Amazon.
ALERT scientists caution investors that United Cacao’s products may be far from environmentally sustainable, and that they should exercise exceptional caution before investing in the company or its Peruvian subsidiary, Cacao del Peru Norte.
“This company has its roots in Southeast Asia’s palm oil industry, which has been a huge driver of forest destruction,” said ALERT director William Laurance. Laurance has conducted research in the Amazon region for nearly 20 years.
“World-class scientists at the Carnegie Institution at Stanford University and the Amazon Conservation Association have used satellite data and cutting-edge laser technology to show that United Cacao has recently cleared more than 2,000 hectares of mostly old-growth rainforest in Peru,” said ALERT member Thomas Lovejoy, a long-term Amazon expert and former environmental advisor to three U.S. presidents.
A small fraction of the cleared land evidently was farmed in the past, and parts of the forest were likely selectively logged in the 1980s, according to a detailed report in the leading environmental website Mongabay.com, based on thorough investigative research by John C. Cannon.
However, the laser technology -- known as LIDAR -- has shown that the carbon stocks contained in the destroyed forests were among the highest known for the Peruvian Amazon, according to Carnegie researcher Greg Asner. This clearly indicates that the cleared block was formerly dominated by mature or old-growth rainforest.
“There’s no way you can clear old-growth rainforest and then claim to produce sustainable cacao,” said Lovejoy.
“Not only that,” said Lovejoy, “but the corporation did so very quietly and without conducting an environmental impact study. That sets a very dangerous precedent.”
“We see a lot of green-washing among corporations today -- where firms try to appear sustainable but really aren’t,” said ALERT member Lian Pin Koh, an associate professor at the University of Adelaide in Australia.
“My fear, based on these recent findings of large-scale forest destruction, is that United Cacao is one of these green-washing corporations,” said Koh.
“The forests of the Peruvian Amazon are just about the biologically richest real estate on the planet,” said Laurance. “And unfortunately there’s a feeding frenzy happening, with large-scale expansion of oil palm and cacao plantations, as well as a great deal of legal and illegal mining and logging.”
“Investors need to be sure that they’re putting their money into projects and corporations that are truly sustainable,” said Laurance. “Right now we have a lot of doubts about United Cacao.”