Dutch pension funds withdrawing from meat industry

Several Dutch pension funds are pulling out of large Brazilian meat companies because they don’t meet the pension funds’ sustainability requirements, Financieele Dagblad reports. After criticism of investments in fossil fuels, pension funds and other financial institutions are facing growing pressure to stop funding the meat industry.

The meat industry has a massive environmental footprint. Worldwide, the sector is clearing forests to create grazing land or plant food for livestock. “Livestock farming causes large amounts of methane and CO2 emissions and is, therefore, a factor in climate change,” a spokesperson for the metal and technology sector’s pension fund PME said to the newspaper. “After fossil fuels, it is one of the sectors we look closely at.” PME already sold its positions in Brazilian meat companies Marfrig and Minerva in 2020.

The healthcare sector’s pension fund recently sold shares in Marfrig, citing the company’s involvement in deforestation as the reason.

Civil servants’ fund ABP sold its interest in Minerva at the end of last year, the fund told FD. The Brazilian meat company no longer met ABP’s sustainability criteria. ABP also sold its Marfrig shares for the same reason. The pension fund still invests in JBS, the third sizeable Brazilian meat company. At the end of 2022, ABP had 27 million euros in JBS shares and 89 million euros in JBS bonds on its books. The pension fund said it is talking with JBS about its climate impact, including deforestation.

The Philips pension fund expects to drop JBS from its portfolio soon. The pension fund’s criteria for investments in emerging markets will change in the coming months, and JBS is unlikely to pass the new requirements, the fund told FD.

The three large listed Brazilian meat companies, JBS, Marfrig, and Minerva, have been under fire for some time. According to various NGOs, the meat companies don’t do enough to trace the origin of the meat they sell. A lot of Brazilian forests are being cut down or burned to make way for livestock farming at the expense of the Amazon rainforest and the Cerrado – two of the most critical ecosystems in the world.

The three meat companies told FD that they are doing everything they can to make meat production as sustainable as possible. JBS said it has a “zero tolerance’ policy for illegal deforestation. Marfrig called the NGOs’ allegations “untrue” and said it monitors its supply chain. JBS also pointed to its policy for checking the origin of meat. Minerva said there is no illegal deforestation in its supply chain.

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