How Moore Is Pushing Sustainable Ranching to Save the Amazon

The fight against global climate change is happening across many fronts, including the battle to save the Earth’s forests from wanton destruction. The World Wildlife Fund reports that deforestation is responsible for 15 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, since forests soak up carbon dioxide that would otherwise remain in the atmosphere. Beef production is one of the leading causes of deforestation, due to razing of trees to create pastures for grazing. The Betty and Gordon Moore Foundation is working to combat the problem with funding of verified deforestation-free beef production in Brazil, the country that is home to the largest commercial cattle herd in the world. 

The Moore Foundation granted $1.8 million last November to the Instituto Centro de Vida (ICV) for such a project in Matto Grosso State. Moore's investment created a ripple effect, with the Institute’s sustainable ranching program Novo Campo recently receiving an additional 11.5 million from the Athelia Climate Fund (managed by Althelia Ecosphere, a London-based asset management firm dedicated to funding such ecosystem conservation initiatives.) As the first international investor backing Novo Campo’s strategy, Althelia Ecosphere has boosted the Moore Foundation’s investment exponentially. This helps Novo Campo pursue its goal to supply the demand from progressive companies committed to sourcing beef only from verified, deforestation-free ranching operations.

“It demonstrates that with solid proof of concept, a clear business case and a scalable model, it is possible to attract financing at a commercial scale to disseminate sustainable cattle ranching in the Amazon,” said Renato Farias, ICV’s executive director, in a press release in September. “This will produce significant positive impacts on both the environment and the economy of the region.”

In turn, boosting the economic value of sustainable cattle ranching is reducing the value of deforestation in beef production. The ICV and Moore Foundation are therefore helping to move the planet toward the Consumer Goods Forum goal to achieve zero net deforestation by 2020. Further efforts include the New York Declaration of Forests at the 2014 U.N. Climate Summit, where a variety of stakeholders pledged to support public- and private-sector goals to eliminate deforestation from the agricultural commodities supply chain. This, in turn, has led to a surge in corporate commitments to zero deforestation, including brands such as Mars, Colgate-Palmolive, Walmart, Nestle and Tesco.

The National Wildlife Federation and the Gibbs Land Use and Environment Lab at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have partnered on a site, www.zerodeforestationcattle.org, which recommends several areas of opportunity for banks and investors. These include providing financial incentives and credit options that support recovery of degraded pastures and that encourage transparency and verification of supply chains. Other funders of the site include Norad and the Climate and Land Use Alliance.