The Impacts of Zero-Deforestation Commitments on Deforestation & Slaughterhouse Siting Behaviours


Abstract: Cattle are the leading driver of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon, as well as one of the key commodities driving tropical deforestation globally. Despite inconclusive evidence, supply chain initiatives have been heralded as a critical way to decouple economic production from environmentally destructive practices both in the Amazon and elsewhere. In the Brazilian cattle sector, this primarily has taken the form of collective zero-deforestation commitments such as (e.g., the G4 Cattle Agreement). We use a novel methodological approach to determine whether these commitments have changed company behaviours location decisions or reduced deforestation in three Brazilian states, Rondônia, Mato Grosso and Pará, which collectively constituted 75% of the cattle herd of the Legal Amazon region. We quantified market exposure to zero deforestation commitments and associated reductions in deforestation by calculating the market share of committed slaughterhouses represent at the municipal level. This was paired with an analysis of the locations of new slaughterhouses by committed companies to identify if companies were avoiding expansion into regions with high deforestation risk. Our results show that companies who make zero-deforestation commitments are not avoiding deforestation hotspots, however a high municipal exposure to zero deforestation commitments is associated with reduced deforestation. We conclude that while commitments are not altering company decisions on where to expand, they are likely changing business practices and in turn resulting in reduced deforestation. However, for commitments to be impactful it requires a large percentage of the local market to be composed of committed companies, otherwise there continue to be ample opportunities for deforestation-intensive actors to avoid or otherwise evade the highly regulated supply chains is too greatcommitmentsted companies have made