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“Slaughtering the Amazon.” This provocative claim ran as the title of a recent Greenpeace report that claims that every eight seconds, an acre of Amazon rainforest disappears in support of Brazilian cattle ranching, the largest single driver of deforestation in the world.

From Greenpeace’s perspective, the report is working, because companies are engaging in proactive attempts to prevent their supply chains from contributing to the destruction. Nike has mandated that by July 1, 2010, its Brazilian leather suppliers must prove their cattle have been raised outside of the Amazon Biome. Walmart, Carrefour, and Pao de Acuar, the three largest supermarket chains in Brazil, are discontinuing contracts with suppliers that contribute to Amazonian deforestation.

In the process of deforestation, ranchers and farmers burn trees to clear the land for farming and thereby emit massive amounts of carbon dioxide. Furthermore, the process may exterminate some of the vast range of flora and fauna that live only in the Amazon. Rainforests are critical to the health of the planet, as well the possible mitigation of global climate change.

This fight to encourage companies and consumers to become more environmentally friendly and sustainable is similar to the battle over underage workers in underdeveloped countries and substandard working conditions. Companies that support responsible manufacturing and production methods benefit everyone involved—workers, customers, the company, and society at large.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Why are companies concerned about being environmentally friendly?
  2. What role do nongovernmental organizations like Greenpeace play in supply chains?

Stan Lehman, “Nike Won’t Use Leather from Amazon-Bred Cattle,” BusinessWeek Online, July 22, 2009.