Kroger to Create and Adopt a No-Deforestation Policy

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©. Slash and burn agriculture in the Amazon (Photo: Matt Zimmerman/Flickr)

The largest grocery chain in the US will develop and implement a new plan to improve its protection of tropical forests.

Two years ago, the Union of Concerned Scientists released a report that ranked 13 major food companies on their deforestation-free beef commitments and practices, highlighting that fact that, "beef is the largest driver of tropical deforestation – and companies that buy beef from tropical countries could be doing a lot more to stop it."

Kroger, the United States' largest grocery chain and the country's largest second-largest general retailer behind Walmart, received zero points out of 100 in the rating of deforestation-free beef policies and practices.

"Tropical deforestation is responsible for about 10 percent of global warming emissions," wrote the authors of the report, "and no product contributes more to tropical deforestation than beef. Each year, millions of hectares of forest are cleared for beef pasture, releasing carbon into the atmosphere and destroying habitat of endangered species."

But now the company will be developing and implementing a no-deforestation policy that will cover their private label "Our Brands" products, according to a statement from Green Century Funds. The environmentally responsible investment group has been pushing the company for a commitment like this for years.

“Kroger prides itself on ‘nourishing our communities and preserving our planet’ and, as one of the largest retailers in the world, this new commitment certainly will help preserve the world’s forests,” said Green Century Shareholder Advocate Jessye Waxman. “By listening to our concerns about deforestation risks in its supply chain and agreeing to implement a no-deforestation policy, Kroger is making real progress on this important and material sustainability issue.”

Kroger will assess their exposure to deforestation and with that information outline a no-deforestation policy. In addition, they will also share progress on their deforestation commitments in their annual Sustainability Report, as well as joining the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) and completing the CDP Forests questionnaire.

At the very least, it's a good start.

“Kroger is a giant company with an immense supply chain, so this new commitment is a big deal,” said Green Century President Leslie Samuelrich. “I’m pleased that Kroger listened to our concerns and is committing to improving its protection of tropical forests.”

The recent publication of a shocking UN report revealed that nature is being wiped out globally at rates unprecedented in human history. One million animal and plant species are now facing extinction, many within decades – and with that comes the collapse of whole ecosystems. The number one factor leading to this precipitous loss is the conversion of land for agriculture; mostly in the tropics, home to the highest levels of biodiversity on the planet. Cattle is the main culprit, followed by palm oil.

For the sake of biodiversity and tropical forests' crucial role in the carbon cycle, it is imperative that global food companies address the part they are playing in deforestation.

"We commend Kroger on its decision to make this important pledge to safeguard essential carbon-absorbing forests," said Steve Blackledge, senior director of Environment America's Conservation America Campaign. "With Kroger's broad reach, its efforts serve as a corporate beacon in the fight against the destruction of these irreplaceable lungs of the world."

Now let's see what they come up with. Check back for updates.