Published On: 27/05/202134.9 min read
  • Casino Group is present in Colombia through its subsidiary Éxito, leader in the retail sector with a 28 percent market share of the domestic market (source : Presentación corporativa Grupo Éxito, 2021). The group’s purchases of beef meat range from 6.4 to 10 percent of the total volume produced in the country.
  • A study carried out by EIA (Environmental Investigation Agency) has shown a link between the Casino Group’s subsidiary (grupo Éxito) and the deforestation of 400 hectares in 2019 inside the Chiribiquete National Natural Park. Chiribiquete NNP, established in 1989 and declared a mixed World Heritage site by UNESCO since 2018, is the world’s largest tropical rainforest national park with an outstanding universal value, providing both exceptional biodiversity and cultural value. The EIA investigation has also revealed indirect links between Casino Group and the financial support of armed groups in the area.
  • Thanks to several unique ecosystems, Colombia is the second richest country in biodiversity on the planet. The Amazon covers nearly 40% of the country. With 166 000 hectares of primary forests lost in 2020, Colombia is also the sixth country with the highest rate of deforestation in the world; this rate increased by 44% from 2019 to 2020. Cattle ranching was the third main driver of deforestation  in Colombia in 2018 with other disastrous consequences, including human rights abuses.
  • Although it is subject to the duty of care law for all its subsidiaries worldwide, Casino Group has not included Colombia in its vigilance plan arguing that, from its point of view, the responsibility of cattle ranching in deforestation is not supported by sufficient evidence in reports on deforestation in Colombia. It considers traceability as a maximum target and not as a basic requirement. 
  • Envol Vert calls for immediate actions from Casino to stop offering products coming from deforestation by 2022. In the meantime, Casino Group shall implement a moratorium for some areas and suppliers involved in deforestation fronts. 
  • Casino Group is present in Colombia through its subsidiary Éxito, leader in the retail sector with a 28 percent market share of the domestic market (source : Presentación corporativa Grupo Éxito, 2021). The group’s purchases of beef meat range from 6.4 to 10 percent of the total volume produced in the country.
  • A study carried out by EIA (Environmental Investigation Agency) has shown a link between the Casino Group’s subsidiary (grupo Éxito) and the deforestation of 400 hectares in 2019 inside the Chiribiquete National Natural Park. Chiribiquete NNP, established in 1989 and declared a mixed World Heritage site by UNESCO since 2018, is the world’s largest tropical rainforest national park with an outstanding universal value, providing both exceptional biodiversity and cultural value. The EIA investigation has also revealed indirect links between Casino Group and the financial support of armed groups in the area.
  • Thanks to several unique ecosystems, Colombia is the second richest country in biodiversity on the planet. The Amazon covers nearly 40% of the country. With 166 000 hectares of primary forests lost in 2020, Colombia is also the sixth country with the highest rate of deforestation in the world; this rate increased by 44% from 2019 to 2020. Cattle ranching was the third main driver of deforestation  in Colombia in 2018 with other disastrous consequences, including human rights abuses.
  • Although it is subject to the duty of care law for all its subsidiaries worldwide, Casino Group has not included Colombia in its vigilance plan arguing that, from its point of view, the responsibility of cattle ranching in deforestation is not supported by sufficient evidence in reports on deforestation in Colombia. It considers traceability as a maximum target and not as a basic requirement. 
  • Envol Vert calls for immediate actions from Casino to stop offering products coming from deforestation by 2022. In the meantime, Casino Group shall implement a moratorium for some areas and suppliers involved in deforestation fronts. 

In Colombia, Casino destroying national park and UNESCO site

In 2020, Envol Vert and its local partners in Brazil were pointing out the responsibility of Grupo Pão de Açúcar, a Casino Group’s subsidiary in Brazil, in the deforestation of the Amazon and the Cerrado. Further to these revelations, an alliance of eleven non-governmental organisations and representatives of indigenous peoples has sued Casino Group claiming the non-respect of the duty of care law for parent companies.

At present, the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) is showing evidence of deforestation and human rights abuses in another major market for Casino Group in South America, Colombia, within the supply chain of Grupo Éxito (Casino Group’s subsidiary). With this paper, Envol Vert presents the key findings of the investigation provided by EIA, the latest exclusive breaking news. As a NGO based in Colombia, Envol Vert is developing a critical analysis and seeking the commitment of Casino Group to enhance efforts to stop deforestation in Colombia.

In 2020, Envol Vert and its local partners in Brazil were pointing out the responsibility of Grupo Pão de Açúcar, a Casino Group’s subsidiary in Brazil, in the deforestation of the Amazon and the Cerrado. Further to these revelations, an alliance of eleven non-governmental organisations and representatives of indigenous peoples has sued Casino Group claiming the non-respect of the duty of care law for parent companies.

At present, the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) is showing evidence of deforestation and human rights abuses in another major market for Casino Group in South America, Colombia, within the supply chain of Grupo Éxito (Casino Group’s subsidiary). With this paper, Envol Vert presents the key findings of the investigation provided by EIA, the latest exclusive breaking news. As a NGO based in Colombia, Envol Vert is developing a critical analysis and seeking the commitment of Casino Group to enhance efforts to stop deforestation in Colombia.

Colombia a double-faced country : unique biodiversity and skyrocketing deforestation

Unique and irreplaceable ecosystems are under urgent threat of deforestation. WWF has identified more than 9 deforestation fronts in South America and among them, 2 are located in Colombia. In 2020, Colombia was ranked the sixth most deforested country in the world by Global Forest Watch. From 2000 to 2019, Colombia lost a total of nearly 2.8 millions hectares of forests, which is the equivalent surface of Belgium. According to IDEAM (Institute of Hydrology, Meteorology and Environmental Studies), cattle ranching is one of the main drivers of deforestation. In addition, this activity is a critical link with land grabbing whose process consists of illegal land acquisition, land-use change to turn into a lucrative asset, and then speculation in the land market.

Land grabbing process in Colombia

The northwest sector of the Amazonian basin in Colombia is essential for the preservation of rainforests and biodiversity. This area is an ecological corridor between the Andes and the Amazon rainforest and provides a critical habitat for unique and endangered species. Protection of these natural resources has led to two National Natural Parks : Chiribiquete and Macarena, Chiribiquete National Natural Park being the world’s largest tropical rainforest national park.

The EIA report Tainted Beef is based on research conducted at the heart of the arc of deforestation, in the northern and  northwestern part of the Chiribiquete National Natural Park. It highlights a strong correlation between the increase in deforestation and the increase in cattle movement. However, it shall  be stressed that the park regulations state very clearly the prohibition of land-use changes and, last but not least,  the prohibition of cattle ranching.   

Deforestation and cattle ranching follow the same trend in the arc of deforestation in the northwest Colombian Amazon

The cattle sector is a key sector in Colombia, representing around 3.6% of national GDP and 7% of national jobs. The cattle herd reached a total of 28 millions heads in 2020. 97% of beef meat produced in the country is consumed at a national level. The beef sector can be divided into two parts: cattle ranching on one side, meat processing and distribution on the other side. Processed meat products are mainly distributed through the food retail channel. According to the Animal Slaughter Survey (ESAG – DANE 2019), supermarkets  had a 23% market share for the first quarter 2019 (Viancha et al., 2020). 

As the leader in the retail sector in Colombia (28% market share in 2020) Casino Group plays a major role in the beef sector.

Actors of the beef supply chain in Colombia

Unique and irreplaceable ecosystems are under urgent threat of deforestation. WWF has identified more than 9 deforestation fronts in South America and among them, 2 are located in Colombia. In 2020, Colombia was ranked the sixth most deforested country in the world by Global Forest Watch. From 2000 to 2019, Colombia lost a total of nearly 2.8 millions hectares of forests, which is the equivalent surface of Belgium. According to IDEAM (Institute of Hydrology, Meteorology and Environmental Studies), cattle ranching is one of the main drivers of deforestation. In addition, this activity is a critical link with land grabbing whose process consists of illegal land acquisition, land-use change to turn into a lucrative asset, and then speculation in the land market.

Land grabbing process in Colombia

The northwest sector of the Amazonian basin in Colombia is essential for the preservation of rainforests and biodiversity. This area is an ecological corridor between the Andes and the Amazon rainforest and provides a critical habitat for unique and endangered species. Protection of these natural resources has led to two National Natural Parks : Chiribiquete and Macarena, Chiribiquete National Natural Park being the world’s largest tropical rainforest national park.

The EIA report Tainted Beef is based on research conducted at the heart of the arc of deforestation, in the northern and  northwestern part of the Chiribiquete National Natural Park. It highlights a strong correlation between the increase in deforestation and the increase in cattle movement. However, it shall  be stressed that the park regulations state very clearly the prohibition of land-use changes and, last but not least,  the prohibition of cattle ranching.   

Deforestation and cattle ranching follow the same trend in the arc of deforestation in the northwest Colombian Amazon

The cattle sector is a key sector in Colombia, representing around 3.6% of national GDP and 7% of national jobs. The cattle herd reached a total of 28 millions heads in 2020. 97% of beef meat produced in the country is consumed at a national level. The beef sector can be divided into two parts: cattle ranching on one side, meat processing and distribution on the other side. Processed meat products are mainly distributed through the food retail channel. According to the Animal Slaughter Survey (ESAG – DANE 2019), supermarkets  had a 23% market share for the first quarter 2019 (Viancha et al., 2020). 

As the leader in the retail sector in Colombia (28% market share in 2020) Casino Group plays a major role in the beef sector.

Actors of the beef supply chain in Colombia

Multiple illegalities within Group Casino’s supply chain

The report issued by the EIA (Environmental Investigation Agency) dated May, 27 exposes cases of deforestation over more than 400 hectares in the Chiribiquete and Macarena National Parks. These cases are directly linked to the Éxito group supply chain.To protect the diverse sources contacted during the investigation, EIA replaced their names by direct supplier A, indirect supplier 1 and 2, Company A, slaughterhouse A and trade fair 1 A. This methodology has also been retained in this article.

The report issued by the EIA (Environmental Investigation Agency) dated May, 27 exposes cases of deforestation over more than 400 hectares in the Chiribiquete and Macarena National Parks. These cases are directly linked to the Éxito group supply chain.To protect the diverse sources contacted during the investigation, EIA replaced their names by direct supplier A, indirect supplier 1 and 2, Company A, slaughterhouse A and trade fair 1 A. This methodology has also been retained in this article.

Case 1: 400 ha deforested in the Chiribiquete NNP – indirect supplier 1’s farm

For at least 12 years, direct supplier A provides Éxito group approximately 1 000 cows per month. To procure these animals, direct supplier A goes through farms that belong to him but also through intermediaries (indirect suppliers) among which indirect supplier 1. The latter has provided him with between 100 and 300 animals per month for at least 10 years . These animals are first bred in a legal farm, but the fattening step is subcontracted to indirect supplier 2 with whom he has worked since at least 5 years.

Indirect supplier 2 owns a farm located right in the Northern area of the Chiribiquete National Park. He stated to the EIA investigators that he deforested 400 has of protected forest in 2019 to pasture his cattle. He didn’t hide either his intent to do the same on another 400 ha in the coming months. In September 2020, he owned around 600 cattle heads: a large scale farm.
These cows from illegal farms enter Éxito group’s supply chain through “cattle laundering”: the livestock is registered as coming from indirect supplier 1 and then delivered to direct supplier A, subcontractor of Éxito group.

Details of the direct supplier A’s supply chain

To see the evolution of deforestation between 2017 and March 2021 in the area of Chiribiquete NNP where the supplier 2 is present, drag the cursor on the image below: 

20172017

Photos taken on the plot of Indirect Supplier 2 in Chiribiquete National Park:

Case 2: An illegal farm in the Macarena NNP – Company A’s farm 

The EIA investigation also helped identify a cattle trade link for the last 4 years between direct supplier A and Company A. Company A’s workers told the investigators that their biggest farm spreads over 2 000 hectares, among which 1 800 hectares of pasture. Part of this pasture is illegally located within the Macarena NNP.arena.

The business relationship between Éxito and direct supplier A is confirmed

During the investigation, EIA interviewed slaughterhouse A which cuts and processes meat for Éxito group. Employees confirmed that the aforementioned direct supplier A sells approximately 1 000 cattle per month to Éxito group. They also confirmed having already heard about indirect supplier 1. Direct supplier A gave the investigators the batch numbers for the meat sold to Éxito group for the Viva de Villavicencio supermarket. Investigators could thus obtain meat products from these batches at the supermarket’s butcher department where the person in charge told them these products had been processed in the Éxito plant in Bogota.

The business relationship between Éxito and direct supplier A is confirmed

During the investigation, EIA interviewed slaughterhouse A which cuts and processes meat for Éxito group. Employees confirmed that the aforementioned direct supplier A sells approximately 1 000 cattle per month to Éxito group. They also confirmed having already heard about indirect supplier 1. Direct supplier A gave the investigators the batch numbers for the meat sold to Éxito group for the Viva de Villavicencio supermarket. Investigators could thus obtain meat products from these batches at the supermarket’s butcher department where the person in charge told them these products had been processed in the Éxito plant in Bogota.

Case 3: Illegal actions in cattle trade fairs and auctions 

Cattle fairs and auctions are strategic livestock trade places which help transactions between the various stakeholders of the beef supply chain. The coordinator of the breeding fair 1 told the investigators he sold cattle directly to Éxito group.

The analysis by the EIA of statistical data regarding cattle flows showed that between 2016 and 2019 over 1 500 cattle that came in this fair originated from 3 localities within the Macarena NNP and the forest preservation area around the Chiribiquete NNP.

The coordinator also told the investigators it was possible to sell cattle bred on illegally deforested lands by forging or hiding their origin.

All these cases bring us back to armed groups

Indirect supplier 2 confided in the investigators that his farm is located in the Chiribiquete NNP and stated that the area is under the control of armed groups to whom he pays a revolution tax of 10 000 COP per animal (2.5€) rounding up to approximately 1 500€ per year for 600 cattle heads. As for the Macarena NNP, it was also confirmed that a revolution tax was paid to armed groups.

In exchange for this tax, suppliers are protected by armed groups and are not accountable to anyone.

Trade fair 1 manager admits he has the necessary contacts to sell cattle originating from areas under armed groups’ control.

All these cases bring us back to armed groups

Indirect supplier 2 confided in the investigators that his farm is located in the Chiribiquete NNP and stated that the area is under the control of armed groups to whom he pays a revolution tax of 10 000 COP per animal (2.5€) rounding up to approximately 1 500€ per year for 600 cattle heads. As for the Macarena NNP, it was also confirmed that a revolution tax was paid to armed groups.

In exchange for this tax, suppliers are protected by armed groups and are not accountable to anyone.

Trade fair 1 manager admits he has the necessary contacts to sell cattle originating from areas under armed groups’ control.

Does Éxito fight against these illegalities?

Strategic announcements that are not respected

The investigation undoubtedly shows that several announcements in Éxito’s policy are not respected, in particular:

  • Zero deforestation – ”Grupo Éxito sells beef originating from loyal suppliers that have zero deforestation commitments and/or protection agreements which guarantee zeo deforestation, meat quality and animal well-being” . The company also states that the minimum commitment is that “activities are carried out while managing resources, respecting national agricultural frontier, minimizing the pressure on ecosystems and protecting biodiversity”.The EIA investigation proves that neither the zero deforestation nor the respect of the agricultural frontier commitments  are met.

  • Traceability : ”Maximum wanted: To have the possibility to state the conditions of the production process from breeding to packaging” This traceability is not seen by the group as a mandatory minimum level but as a maximum wanted, which is not a very compelling commitment in terms of accountability.

  • Transparency : To give transparency and traceability to consumers”. In 2019, alongside the EIA’s investigation, Envol Vert submitted two requests to group Éxito to obtain the origin of procured meat :

    •  The customer service replied it was confidential information.
    • As for the supermarket, they stated that the batch originated from 2 farms of indirect suppliers, but underlined that they didn’t have information regarding indirect suppliers and shifted the responsibility of the follow-up to the ICA. 

Blanks in group Casino’s policy

  • Group Casino doesn’t have a vigilance plan implemented in Columbia. It doesn’t deem cattle breeding as a risk for deforestation. During an interview between Envol Vert and group Éxito’s  CSR manager in November 2019, the latter stated that :

    “In Columbia, I can guarantee that deforestation won’t move an inch on a 100% of my supply chain; the biggest deforestation source of the country are what we call illicit cultures. In other words, all those who use cocaïne in this world are the ones who deforest”

    These words show the ignorance or the neglect of the group towards the deforestation issue, in particular when related to cattle breeding, which is the main source of déforestation.

  • The policy never specifies the means implemented to achieve defined objectives (tools or activities) and never mentions either the milestones or the deadline to reach them.

  • No risk analysis is carried out by group Éxito on the following topics:

    • Financing of armed groups
    • Cattle laundering
    • Land grabbing
    • Corruption risk
  • Although group Éxito signed in August 2020 the beef meat zero deforestation voluntary agreements promoted by the Columbian government, it has weirdly enough erased from its own policy currently published on its website the zero deforestation commitments that existed in the version provided to Envol Vert in December 2020. Envol Vert wonders about this modification whereas the last reports published on the group could have given hope for a reinforcement of their policy.

Still Casino’s double dealing with a lot of Greenwashing but few concrete actions

  • Monitoring: ”farms of regular beef meat suppliers are monitored based on zero deforestation criterias by a third party independent from the company”. In december 2020, the group presented its “annual monitoring for the preservation of ecosystems and the protection of the agricultural frontier”. It states that group Exito includes:

    • 39 farmers for which it assessed all the lands
    • over 37 000 hectares which were monitored thanks to the GLOBAL FOREST WATCH PRO tool
    • over 65% of suppliers which have around 0% of gross deforestation acknowledged.  

    In the media and on social media the group declare they were “the leader in Columbia for the transformation of productive livestock practices to protect biodiversity”However : 

    • Results of this monitoring are not openly available or communicated in detail (for instance, the group doesn’t five any information regarding the remaining 35% of suppliers). There is moreover no explanation of the methodology for the “around 0% of gross deforestation acknowledged”.
    • Communications on this monitoring are incomplete and don’t allow the understanding of the monitored scope (fairs, auctions, intermediaries…) nor the related turnover.
    • This monitoring doesn’t include the analysis of indirect suppliers and can therefore not ensure zero deforestation.
  • Label Group Éxito has established the Ganso label, which takes into account the maxima wanted by the group’s policy. During the launch of this label, one of the responsibles stated:

    Even though all the meat we will sell will come from farms in line with the sustainable breeding model, we will have a special label on meat to validate additional criteria such as traceability […] and it will be visible so that customers can know they are buying a product that meets high sustainability norms.”

    This GANSO label dedicated to sustainable cattle breeding is actually closer to a continuous progress approach than a label (it includes 3 levels, the first of which is less than 50% of the criterias). The traceability guaranteed by the label doesn’t apply to indirect suppliers. It is therefore impossible to guarantee zero deforestation in the supply chain.

Strategic announcements that are not respected

The investigation undoubtedly shows that several announcements in Éxito’s policy are not respected, in particular:

  • Zero deforestation – ”Grupo Éxito sells beef originating from loyal suppliers that have zero deforestation commitments and/or protection agreements which guarantee zeo deforestation, meat quality and animal well-being” . The company also states that the minimum commitment is that “activities are carried out while managing resources, respecting national agricultural frontier, minimizing the pressure on ecosystems and protecting biodiversity”.The EIA investigation proves that neither the zero deforestation nor the respect of the agricultural frontier commitments  are met.

  • Traceability : ”Maximum wanted: To have the possibility to state the conditions of the production process from breeding to packaging” This traceability is not seen by the group as a mandatory minimum level but as a maximum wanted, which is not a very compelling commitment in terms of accountability.

  • Transparency : To give transparency and traceability to consumers”. In 2019, alongside the EIA’s investigation, Envol Vert submitted two requests to group Éxito to obtain the origin of procured meat :

    •  The customer service replied it was confidential information.
    • As for the supermarket, they stated that the batch originated from 2 farms of indirect suppliers, but underlined that they didn’t have information regarding indirect suppliers and shifted the responsibility of the follow-up to the ICA. 

Blanks in group Casino’s policy

  • Group Casino doesn’t have a vigilance plan implemented in Columbia. It doesn’t deem cattle breeding as a risk for deforestation. During an interview between Envol Vert and group Éxito’s  CSR manager in November 2019, the latter stated that :

    “In Columbia, I can guarantee that deforestation won’t move an inch on a 100% of my supply chain; the biggest deforestation source of the country are what we call illicit cultures. In other words, all those who use cocaïne in this world are the ones who deforest”

    These words show the ignorance or the neglect of the group towards the deforestation issue, in particular when related to cattle breeding, which is the main source of déforestation.

  • The policy never specifies the means implemented to achieve defined objectives (tools or activities) and never mentions either the milestones or the deadline to reach them.

  • No risk analysis is carried out by group Éxito on the following topics:

    • Financing of armed groups
    • Cattle laundering
    • Land grabbing
    • Corruption risk
  • Although group Éxito signed in August 2020 the beef meat zero deforestation voluntary agreements promoted by the Columbian government, it has weirdly enough erased from its own policy currently published on its website the zero deforestation commitments that existed in the version provided to Envol Vert in December 2020. Envol Vert wonders about this modification whereas the last reports published on the group could have given hope for a reinforcement of their policy.

Still Casino’s double dealing with a lot of Greenwashing but few concrete actions

  • Monitoring: ”farms of regular beef meat suppliers are monitored based on zero deforestation criterias by a third party independent from the company”. In december 2020, the group presented its “annual monitoring for the preservation of ecosystems and the protection of the agricultural frontier”. It states that group Exito includes:

    • 39 farmers for which it assessed all the lands
    • over 37 000 hectares which were monitored thanks to the GLOBAL FOREST WATCH PRO tool
    • over 65% of suppliers which have around 0% of gross deforestation acknowledged.  

    In the media and on social media the group declare they were “the leader in Columbia for the transformation of productive livestock practices to protect biodiversity”However : 

    • Results of this monitoring are not openly available or communicated in detail (for instance, the group doesn’t five any information regarding the remaining 35% of suppliers). There is moreover no explanation of the methodology for the “around 0% of gross deforestation acknowledged”.
    • Communications on this monitoring are incomplete and don’t allow the understanding of the monitored scope (fairs, auctions, intermediaries…) nor the related turnover.
    • This monitoring doesn’t include the analysis of indirect suppliers and can therefore not ensure zero deforestation.
  • Label Group Éxito has established the Ganso label, which takes into account the maxima wanted by the group’s policy. During the launch of this label, one of the responsibles stated:

    Even though all the meat we will sell will come from farms in line with the sustainable breeding model, we will have a special label on meat to validate additional criteria such as traceability […] and it will be visible so that customers can know they are buying a product that meets high sustainability norms.”

    This GANSO label dedicated to sustainable cattle breeding is actually closer to a continuous progress approach than a label (it includes 3 levels, the first of which is less than 50% of the criterias). The traceability guaranteed by the label doesn’t apply to indirect suppliers. It is therefore impossible to guarantee zero deforestation in the supply chain.

Assessment of the total area deforested in 2020 due to group Éxito’s activities in Columbia

As a reminder, group Éxito buys between 6.5% and 10% of all the meat sold in Columbia.
The share of meat produced in Columbia for local consumption is 97%. It is therefore possible to know the total volume of Columbian meat bought by group Éxito.

Deforestation in Columbia has reached a total of 160 000 ha of tropical forests in 2020 according to Global Forest Watch. Moreover, cattle breeding, the largest source of deforestation, is responsible for
70% of this deforestation.

We can therefore assume that group Éxito is responsible for approximately 7 200 ha of déforestation in 2020 because of its purchase of beef products, which is more than 10 000 of internal football fields.

0ha
of forests destroyed by Casino in 2020 (estimate)

This figure alone should compel the group to implement a strong policy as soon as possible. This is an estimation based on general statistics and assumptions for deforestation allocation. It does not take into account more precise data regarding the origin of cattle procured by group Éxito.

See the calculation methodology

Requests from Envol Vert to Casino for its Colombian subsidiary

Fix a reference date for the beef sector (as of January 1, 2011 as per agreements in Colombia on zero-deforestation), date from which neither deforestation of natural forest ecosystems nor conversion of other ecosystems is accepted in the whole supply chain, starting from birth of the animal.  

Achieve the objective by the end of 2022 as per the requirements of the policy.  Apply the policy to deforestation and illegal land conversion as a top priority, and then to any land conversion in High Conservation Value (HCV) and High Carbon Stock (HCS) areas. 

Switch the group purchases to sustainable supplies for 50% by 2025 (silvopastoralism, regenerative cattle ranching, etc.) with a high productivity per hectare (not below 3 LU / hectare depending on ecosystem type).

Include in this analysis every single activity of the supply chain, starting with breeding farming from birth of the animal, meat packing, distribution and retail, cattle laundering, corruption, land grabbing, financial support to armed groups, etc. This analysis shall be conducted by independent third parties to ensure objectivity.

  • Implement a moratorium with suppliers located within 100km of deforestation fronts and national parks until direct and indirect suppliers are taken under full control,  
  • Ensure no “cattle laundering” in the supply chain thanks to a strict control of the animal productivity at every  level of the supply chain, 
  • Organise additional checks for suppliers in at-risk areas such as:

    • areas close to the agricultural frontier to guarantee they are not involved in deforestation 
    • other areas with a public legal status including national parks
  • Ensure no corruption, no document fraud, and no financial support to armed groups by a  supplier control and monitoring plan,  
  • In case deforestation is identified, take corrective actions and sanctions, and stop business relationships until an auditor has confirmed that corrective actions have been implemented by the concerned supplier. In addition, action required immediately for the suppliers identified by the EIA report.  

Consider in this monitoring system:

  • the total beef purchases of the group (fresh meat, frozen meat, processed meat, etc.), 
  • all suppliers, including direct and indirect suppliers, at any level of the supply chain starting from birth of the animal, 
  • different sales models (live animal suppliers, trade fairs, meat packers, slaughterhouses, etc.),
  • the reference date with respect to deforestation (january 2011) as per the national voluntary agreements. 
A follow-up shall be arranged on results and objectives; it shall:
  • be based on KPIs and methods, and validated by an independent third-party,
  • specify the methodology and sources used, 
  • present the results and make reports available to the public. In case of impact, it shall identify the concerned products and concerned stores, and clearly clarify the actions to be taken, 
  • demonstrate the appropriate monitoring and regular evaluation of its effectiveness.
This system shall be followed by independent audits, which are not linked to the meat market, and findings shall be readily available for the public.

  • Retain intermediaries thanks to the implementation of a bonus in order to encourage farmers to control their suppliers; this system differs from quality incentives,
  • Limit the number of intermediaries and limit buying cattle at auction which cause a loss of traceability, and rather encourage direct supplies with long-term contracts,
  • Stop standard payment terms at 60 or 90 days which force to deal with large-sized intermediaries (direct suppliers) who use “trade secret” as an excuse for not providing the traceability information,
  • Encourage direct purchases from the primary producers through associations or farmer cooperatives. These organisations allow transparency in a formal way while connecting all actors of the supply chain,
  • Provide heavy support to producers, technically and economically speaking, in order to improve productivity from the first stage of the chain which is the most at-risk in terms of deforestation; tend to an exclusive supply from producers involved in silvopastoralism or other alternative solutions such as regenerative cattle ranching, sustainable systems, etc. with a high productivity per hectare,
  • Give a greater place to meat packing plants and treat them as strategic partners in the fight against deforestation, and not only as service providers. 
  • Provide technical and financial support,  
  • Include all players in the supply chain management system,
  • Create a useful tool checked by third-parties, based on official data, using a methodology and making results public, in order to allow meat traceability. This tool shall be developed and improved from the existing monitoring systems, 
  • Develop a system based on obligations of results and not on obligations of means, including appropriate measures to prevent « cattle laundering » and « land grabbing ».

Fix a reference date for the beef sector (as of January 1, 2011 as per agreements in Colombia on zero-deforestation), date from which neither deforestation of natural forest ecosystems nor conversion of other ecosystems is accepted in the whole supply chain, starting from birth of the animal.  

Achieve the objective by the end of 2022 as per the requirements of the policy.  Apply the policy to deforestation and illegal land conversion as a top priority, and then to any land conversion in High Conservation Value (HCV) and High Carbon Stock (HCS) areas. 

Switch the group purchases to sustainable supplies for 50% by 2025 (silvopastoralism, regenerative cattle ranching, etc.) with a high productivity per hectare (not below 3 LU / hectare depending on ecosystem type).

Include in this analysis every single activity of the supply chain, starting with breeding farming from birth of the animal, meat packing, distribution and retail, cattle laundering, corruption, land grabbing, financial support to armed groups, etc. This analysis shall be conducted by independent third parties to ensure objectivity.

  • Implement a moratorium with suppliers located within 100km of deforestation fronts and national parks until direct and indirect suppliers are taken under full control,  
  • Ensure no “cattle laundering” in the supply chain thanks to a strict control of the animal productivity at every  level of the supply chain, 
  • Organise additional checks for suppliers in at-risk areas such as:

    • areas close to the agricultural frontier to guarantee they are not involved in deforestation 
    • other areas with a public legal status including national parks
  • Ensure no corruption, no document fraud, and no financial support to armed groups by a  supplier control and monitoring plan,  
  • In case deforestation is identified, take corrective actions and sanctions, and stop business relationships until an auditor has confirmed that corrective actions have been implemented by the concerned supplier. In addition, action required immediately for the suppliers identified by the EIA report.  

Consider in this monitoring system:

  • the total beef purchases of the group (fresh meat, frozen meat, processed meat, etc.), 
  • all suppliers, including direct and indirect suppliers, at any level of the supply chain starting from birth of the animal, 
  • different sales models (live animal suppliers, trade fairs, meat packers, slaughterhouses, etc.),
  • the reference date with respect to deforestation (january 2011) as per the national voluntary agreements. 
A follow-up shall be arranged on results and objectives; it shall:
  • be based on KPIs and methods, and validated by an independent third-party,
  • specify the methodology and sources used, 
  • present the results and make reports available to the public. In case of impact, it shall identify the concerned products and concerned stores, and clearly clarify the actions to be taken, 
  • demonstrate the appropriate monitoring and regular evaluation of its effectiveness.
This system shall be followed by independent audits, which are not linked to the meat market, and findings shall be readily available for the public.

  • Retain intermediaries thanks to the implementation of a bonus in order to encourage farmers to control their suppliers; this system differs from quality incentives,
  • Limit the number of intermediaries and limit buying cattle at auction which cause a loss of traceability, and rather encourage direct supplies with long-term contracts,
  • Stop standard payment terms at 60 or 90 days which force to deal with large-sized intermediaries (direct suppliers) who use “trade secret” as an excuse for not providing the traceability information,
  • Encourage direct purchases from the primary producers through associations or farmer cooperatives. These organisations allow transparency in a formal way while connecting all actors of the supply chain,
  • Provide heavy support to producers, technically and economically speaking, in order to improve productivity from the first stage of the chain which is the most at-risk in terms of deforestation; tend to an exclusive supply from producers involved in silvopastoralism or other alternative solutions such as regenerative cattle ranching, sustainable systems, etc. with a high productivity per hectare,
  • Give a greater place to meat packing plants and treat them as strategic partners in the fight against deforestation, and not only as service providers. 
  • Provide technical and financial support,  
  • Include all players in the supply chain management system,
  • Create a useful tool checked by third-parties, based on official data, using a methodology and making results public, in order to allow meat traceability. This tool shall be developed and improved from the existing monitoring systems, 
  • Develop a system based on obligations of results and not on obligations of means, including appropriate measures to prevent « cattle laundering » and « land grabbing ».

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  • Casino Group is present in Colombia through its subsidiary Éxito, leader in the retail sector with a 28 percent market share of the domestic market (source : Presentación corporativa Grupo Éxito, 2021). The group’s purchases of beef meat range from 6.4 to 10 percent of the total volume produced in the country.
  • A study carried out by EIA (Environmental Investigation Agency) has shown a link between the Casino Group’s subsidiary (grupo Éxito) and the deforestation of 400 hectares in 2019 inside the Chiribiquete National Natural Park. Chiribiquete NNP, established in 1989 and declared a mixed World Heritage site by UNESCO since 2018, is the world’s largest tropical rainforest national park with an outstanding universal value, providing both exceptional biodiversity and cultural value. The EIA investigation has also revealed indirect links between Casino Group and the financial support of armed groups in the area.
  • Thanks to several unique ecosystems, Colombia is the second richest country in biodiversity on the planet. The Amazon covers nearly 40% of the country. With 166 000 hectares of primary forests lost in 2020, Colombia is also the sixth country with the highest rate of deforestation in the world; this rate increased by 44% from 2019 to 2020. Cattle ranching was the third main driver of deforestation  in Colombia in 2018 with other disastrous consequences, including human rights abuses.
  • Although it is subject to the duty of care law for all its subsidiaries worldwide, Casino Group has not included Colombia in its vigilance plan arguing that, from its point of view, the responsibility of cattle ranching in deforestation is not supported by sufficient evidence in reports on deforestation in Colombia. It considers traceability as a maximum target and not as a basic requirement. 
  • Envol Vert calls for immediate actions from Casino to stop offering products coming from deforestation by 2022. In the meantime, Casino Group shall implement a moratorium for some areas and suppliers involved in deforestation fronts. 
  • Casino Group is present in Colombia through its subsidiary Éxito, leader in the retail sector with a 28 percent market share of the domestic market (source : Presentación corporativa Grupo Éxito, 2021). The group’s purchases of beef meat range from 6.4 to 10 percent of the total volume produced in the country.
  • A study carried out by EIA (Environmental Investigation Agency) has shown a link between the Casino Group’s subsidiary (grupo Éxito) and the deforestation of 400 hectares in 2019 inside the Chiribiquete National Natural Park. Chiribiquete NNP, established in 1989 and declared a mixed World Heritage site by UNESCO since 2018, is the world’s largest tropical rainforest national park with an outstanding universal value, providing both exceptional biodiversity and cultural value. The EIA investigation has also revealed indirect links between Casino Group and the financial support of armed groups in the area.
  • Thanks to several unique ecosystems, Colombia is the second richest country in biodiversity on the planet. The Amazon covers nearly 40% of the country. With 166 000 hectares of primary forests lost in 2020, Colombia is also the sixth country with the highest rate of deforestation in the world; this rate increased by 44% from 2019 to 2020. Cattle ranching was the third main driver of deforestation  in Colombia in 2018 with other disastrous consequences, including human rights abuses.
  • Although it is subject to the duty of care law for all its subsidiaries worldwide, Casino Group has not included Colombia in its vigilance plan arguing that, from its point of view, the responsibility of cattle ranching in deforestation is not supported by sufficient evidence in reports on deforestation in Colombia. It considers traceability as a maximum target and not as a basic requirement. 
  • Envol Vert calls for immediate actions from Casino to stop offering products coming from deforestation by 2022. In the meantime, Casino Group shall implement a moratorium for some areas and suppliers involved in deforestation fronts. 

In Colombia, Casino destroying national park and UNESCO site

In 2020, Envol Vert and its local partners in Brazil were pointing out the responsibility of Grupo Pão de Açúcar, a Casino Group’s subsidiary in Brazil, in the deforestation of the Amazon and the Cerrado. Further to these revelations, an alliance of eleven non-governmental organisations and representatives of indigenous peoples has sued Casino Group claiming the non-respect of the duty of care law for parent companies.

At present, the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) is showing evidence of deforestation and human rights abuses in another major market for Casino Group in South America, Colombia, within the supply chain of Grupo Éxito (Casino Group’s subsidiary). With this paper, Envol Vert presents the key findings of the investigation provided by EIA, the latest exclusive breaking news. As a NGO based in Colombia, Envol Vert is developing a critical analysis and seeking the commitment of Casino Group to enhance efforts to stop deforestation in Colombia.

In 2020, Envol Vert and its local partners in Brazil were pointing out the responsibility of Grupo Pão de Açúcar, a Casino Group’s subsidiary in Brazil, in the deforestation of the Amazon and the Cerrado. Further to these revelations, an alliance of eleven non-governmental organisations and representatives of indigenous peoples has sued Casino Group claiming the non-respect of the duty of care law for parent companies.

At present, the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) is showing evidence of deforestation and human rights abuses in another major market for Casino Group in South America, Colombia, within the supply chain of Grupo Éxito (Casino Group’s subsidiary). With this paper, Envol Vert presents the key findings of the investigation provided by EIA, the latest exclusive breaking news. As a NGO based in Colombia, Envol Vert is developing a critical analysis and seeking the commitment of Casino Group to enhance efforts to stop deforestation in Colombia.

Colombia a double-faced country : unique biodiversity and skyrocketing deforestation

Unique and irreplaceable ecosystems are under urgent threat of deforestation. WWF has identified more than 9 deforestation fronts in South America and among them, 2 are located in Colombia. In 2020, Colombia was ranked the sixth most deforested country in the world by Global Forest Watch. From 2000 to 2019, Colombia lost a total of nearly 2.8 millions hectares of forests, which is the equivalent surface of Belgium. According to IDEAM (Institute of Hydrology, Meteorology and Environmental Studies), cattle ranching is one of the main drivers of deforestation. In addition, this activity is a critical link with land grabbing whose process consists of illegal land acquisition, land-use change to turn into a lucrative asset, and then speculation in the land market.

Land grabbing process in Colombia

The northwest sector of the Amazonian basin in Colombia is essential for the preservation of rainforests and biodiversity. This area is an ecological corridor between the Andes and the Amazon rainforest and provides a critical habitat for unique and endangered species. Protection of these natural resources has led to two National Natural Parks : Chiribiquete and Macarena, Chiribiquete National Natural Park being the world’s largest tropical rainforest national park.

The EIA report Tainted Beef is based on research conducted at the heart of the arc of deforestation, in the northern and  northwestern part of the Chiribiquete National Natural Park. It highlights a strong correlation between the increase in deforestation and the increase in cattle movement. However, it shall  be stressed that the park regulations state very clearly the prohibition of land-use changes and, last but not least,  the prohibition of cattle ranching.   

Deforestation and cattle ranching follow the same trend in the arc of deforestation in the northwest Colombian Amazon

The cattle sector is a key sector in Colombia, representing around 3.6% of national GDP and 7% of national jobs. The cattle herd reached a total of 28 millions heads in 2020. 97% of beef meat produced in the country is consumed at a national level. The beef sector can be divided into two parts: cattle ranching on one side, meat processing and distribution on the other side. Processed meat products are mainly distributed through the food retail channel. According to the Animal Slaughter Survey (ESAG – DANE 2019), supermarkets  had a 23% market share for the first quarter 2019 (Viancha et al., 2020). 

As the leader in the retail sector in Colombia (28% market share in 2020) Casino Group plays a major role in the beef sector.

Actors of the beef supply chain in Colombia

Unique and irreplaceable ecosystems are under urgent threat of deforestation. WWF has identified more than 9 deforestation fronts in South America and among them, 2 are located in Colombia. In 2020, Colombia was ranked the sixth most deforested country in the world by Global Forest Watch. From 2000 to 2019, Colombia lost a total of nearly 2.8 millions hectares of forests, which is the equivalent surface of Belgium. According to IDEAM (Institute of Hydrology, Meteorology and Environmental Studies), cattle ranching is one of the main drivers of deforestation. In addition, this activity is a critical link with land grabbing whose process consists of illegal land acquisition, land-use change to turn into a lucrative asset, and then speculation in the land market.

Land grabbing process in Colombia

The northwest sector of the Amazonian basin in Colombia is essential for the preservation of rainforests and biodiversity. This area is an ecological corridor between the Andes and the Amazon rainforest and provides a critical habitat for unique and endangered species. Protection of these natural resources has led to two National Natural Parks : Chiribiquete and Macarena, Chiribiquete National Natural Park being the world’s largest tropical rainforest national park.

The EIA report Tainted Beef is based on research conducted at the heart of the arc of deforestation, in the northern and  northwestern part of the Chiribiquete National Natural Park. It highlights a strong correlation between the increase in deforestation and the increase in cattle movement. However, it shall  be stressed that the park regulations state very clearly the prohibition of land-use changes and, last but not least,  the prohibition of cattle ranching.   

Deforestation and cattle ranching follow the same trend in the arc of deforestation in the northwest Colombian Amazon

The cattle sector is a key sector in Colombia, representing around 3.6% of national GDP and 7% of national jobs. The cattle herd reached a total of 28 millions heads in 2020. 97% of beef meat produced in the country is consumed at a national level. The beef sector can be divided into two parts: cattle ranching on one side, meat processing and distribution on the other side. Processed meat products are mainly distributed through the food retail channel. According to the Animal Slaughter Survey (ESAG – DANE 2019), supermarkets  had a 23% market share for the first quarter 2019 (Viancha et al., 2020). 

As the leader in the retail sector in Colombia (28% market share in 2020) Casino Group plays a major role in the beef sector.

Actors of the beef supply chain in Colombia

Multiple illegalities within Group Casino’s supply chain

The report issued by the EIA (Environmental Investigation Agency) dated May, 27 exposes cases of deforestation over more than 400 hectares in the Chiribiquete and Macarena National Parks. These cases are directly linked to the Éxito group supply chain.To protect the diverse sources contacted during the investigation, EIA replaced their names by direct supplier A, indirect supplier 1 and 2, Company A, slaughterhouse A and trade fair 1 A. This methodology has also been retained in this article.

The report issued by the EIA (Environmental Investigation Agency) dated May, 27 exposes cases of deforestation over more than 400 hectares in the Chiribiquete and Macarena National Parks. These cases are directly linked to the Éxito group supply chain.To protect the diverse sources contacted during the investigation, EIA replaced their names by direct supplier A, indirect supplier 1 and 2, Company A, slaughterhouse A and trade fair 1 A. This methodology has also been retained in this article.

Case 1: 400 ha deforested in the Chiribiquete NNP – indirect supplier 1’s farm

For at least 12 years, direct supplier A provides Éxito group approximately 1 000 cows per month. To procure these animals, direct supplier A goes through farms that belong to him but also through intermediaries (indirect suppliers) among which indirect supplier 1. The latter has provided him with between 100 and 300 animals per month for at least 10 years . These animals are first bred in a legal farm, but the fattening step is subcontracted to indirect supplier 2 with whom he has worked since at least 5 years.

Indirect supplier 2 owns a farm located right in the Northern area of the Chiribiquete National Park. He stated to the EIA investigators that he deforested 400 has of protected forest in 2019 to pasture his cattle. He didn’t hide either his intent to do the same on another 400 ha in the coming months. In September 2020, he owned around 600 cattle heads: a large scale farm.
These cows from illegal farms enter Éxito group’s supply chain through “cattle laundering”: the livestock is registered as coming from indirect supplier 1 and then delivered to direct supplier A, subcontractor of Éxito group.

Details of the direct supplier A’s supply chain

To see the evolution of deforestation between 2017 and March 2021 in the area of Chiribiquete NNP where the supplier 2 is present, drag the cursor on the image below: 

20172017

Photos taken on the plot of Indirect Supplier 2 in Chiribiquete National Park:

Case 2: An illegal farm in the Macarena NNP – Company A’s farm 

The EIA investigation also helped identify a cattle trade link for the last 4 years between direct supplier A and Company A. Company A’s workers told the investigators that their biggest farm spreads over 2 000 hectares, among which 1 800 hectares of pasture. Part of this pasture is illegally located within the Macarena NNP.arena.

The business relationship between Éxito and direct supplier A is confirmed

During the investigation, EIA interviewed slaughterhouse A which cuts and processes meat for Éxito group. Employees confirmed that the aforementioned direct supplier A sells approximately 1 000 cattle per month to Éxito group. They also confirmed having already heard about indirect supplier 1. Direct supplier A gave the investigators the batch numbers for the meat sold to Éxito group for the Viva de Villavicencio supermarket. Investigators could thus obtain meat products from these batches at the supermarket’s butcher department where the person in charge told them these products had been processed in the Éxito plant in Bogota.

The business relationship between Éxito and direct supplier A is confirmed

During the investigation, EIA interviewed slaughterhouse A which cuts and processes meat for Éxito group. Employees confirmed that the aforementioned direct supplier A sells approximately 1 000 cattle per month to Éxito group. They also confirmed having already heard about indirect supplier 1. Direct supplier A gave the investigators the batch numbers for the meat sold to Éxito group for the Viva de Villavicencio supermarket. Investigators could thus obtain meat products from these batches at the supermarket’s butcher department where the person in charge told them these products had been processed in the Éxito plant in Bogota.

Case 3: Illegal actions in cattle trade fairs and auctions 

Cattle fairs and auctions are strategic livestock trade places which help transactions between the various stakeholders of the beef supply chain. The coordinator of the breeding fair 1 told the investigators he sold cattle directly to Éxito group.

The analysis by the EIA of statistical data regarding cattle flows showed that between 2016 and 2019 over 1 500 cattle that came in this fair originated from 3 localities within the Macarena NNP and the forest preservation area around the Chiribiquete NNP.

The coordinator also told the investigators it was possible to sell cattle bred on illegally deforested lands by forging or hiding their origin.

All these cases bring us back to armed groups

Indirect supplier 2 confided in the investigators that his farm is located in the Chiribiquete NNP and stated that the area is under the control of armed groups to whom he pays a revolution tax of 10 000 COP per animal (2.5€) rounding up to approximately 1 500€ per year for 600 cattle heads. As for the Macarena NNP, it was also confirmed that a revolution tax was paid to armed groups.

In exchange for this tax, suppliers are protected by armed groups and are not accountable to anyone.

Trade fair 1 manager admits he has the necessary contacts to sell cattle originating from areas under armed groups’ control.

All these cases bring us back to armed groups

Indirect supplier 2 confided in the investigators that his farm is located in the Chiribiquete NNP and stated that the area is under the control of armed groups to whom he pays a revolution tax of 10 000 COP per animal (2.5€) rounding up to approximately 1 500€ per year for 600 cattle heads. As for the Macarena NNP, it was also confirmed that a revolution tax was paid to armed groups.

In exchange for this tax, suppliers are protected by armed groups and are not accountable to anyone.

Trade fair 1 manager admits he has the necessary contacts to sell cattle originating from areas under armed groups’ control.

Does Éxito fight against these illegalities?

Strategic announcements that are not respected

The investigation undoubtedly shows that several announcements in Éxito’s policy are not respected, in particular:

  • Zero deforestation – ”Grupo Éxito sells beef originating from loyal suppliers that have zero deforestation commitments and/or protection agreements which guarantee zeo deforestation, meat quality and animal well-being” . The company also states that the minimum commitment is that “activities are carried out while managing resources, respecting national agricultural frontier, minimizing the pressure on ecosystems and protecting biodiversity”.The EIA investigation proves that neither the zero deforestation nor the respect of the agricultural frontier commitments  are met.

  • Traceability : ”Maximum wanted: To have the possibility to state the conditions of the production process from breeding to packaging” This traceability is not seen by the group as a mandatory minimum level but as a maximum wanted, which is not a very compelling commitment in terms of accountability.

  • Transparency : To give transparency and traceability to consumers”. In 2019, alongside the EIA’s investigation, Envol Vert submitted two requests to group Éxito to obtain the origin of procured meat :

    •  The customer service replied it was confidential information.
    • As for the supermarket, they stated that the batch originated from 2 farms of indirect suppliers, but underlined that they didn’t have information regarding indirect suppliers and shifted the responsibility of the follow-up to the ICA. 

Blanks in group Casino’s policy

  • Group Casino doesn’t have a vigilance plan implemented in Columbia. It doesn’t deem cattle breeding as a risk for deforestation. During an interview between Envol Vert and group Éxito’s  CSR manager in November 2019, the latter stated that :

    “In Columbia, I can guarantee that deforestation won’t move an inch on a 100% of my supply chain; the biggest deforestation source of the country are what we call illicit cultures. In other words, all those who use cocaïne in this world are the ones who deforest”

    These words show the ignorance or the neglect of the group towards the deforestation issue, in particular when related to cattle breeding, which is the main source of déforestation.

  • The policy never specifies the means implemented to achieve defined objectives (tools or activities) and never mentions either the milestones or the deadline to reach them.

  • No risk analysis is carried out by group Éxito on the following topics:

    • Financing of armed groups
    • Cattle laundering
    • Land grabbing
    • Corruption risk
  • Although group Éxito signed in August 2020 the beef meat zero deforestation voluntary agreements promoted by the Columbian government, it has weirdly enough erased from its own policy currently published on its website the zero deforestation commitments that existed in the version provided to Envol Vert in December 2020. Envol Vert wonders about this modification whereas the last reports published on the group could have given hope for a reinforcement of their policy.

Still Casino’s double dealing with a lot of Greenwashing but few concrete actions

  • Monitoring: ”farms of regular beef meat suppliers are monitored based on zero deforestation criterias by a third party independent from the company”. In december 2020, the group presented its “annual monitoring for the preservation of ecosystems and the protection of the agricultural frontier”. It states that group Exito includes:

    • 39 farmers for which it assessed all the lands
    • over 37 000 hectares which were monitored thanks to the GLOBAL FOREST WATCH PRO tool
    • over 65% of suppliers which have around 0% of gross deforestation acknowledged.  

    In the media and on social media the group declare they were “the leader in Columbia for the transformation of productive livestock practices to protect biodiversity”However : 

    • Results of this monitoring are not openly available or communicated in detail (for instance, the group doesn’t five any information regarding the remaining 35% of suppliers). There is moreover no explanation of the methodology for the “around 0% of gross deforestation acknowledged”.
    • Communications on this monitoring are incomplete and don’t allow the understanding of the monitored scope (fairs, auctions, intermediaries…) nor the related turnover.
    • This monitoring doesn’t include the analysis of indirect suppliers and can therefore not ensure zero deforestation.
  • Label Group Éxito has established the Ganso label, which takes into account the maxima wanted by the group’s policy. During the launch of this label, one of the responsibles stated:

    Even though all the meat we will sell will come from farms in line with the sustainable breeding model, we will have a special label on meat to validate additional criteria such as traceability […] and it will be visible so that customers can know they are buying a product that meets high sustainability norms.”

    This GANSO label dedicated to sustainable cattle breeding is actually closer to a continuous progress approach than a label (it includes 3 levels, the first of which is less than 50% of the criterias). The traceability guaranteed by the label doesn’t apply to indirect suppliers. It is therefore impossible to guarantee zero deforestation in the supply chain.

Strategic announcements that are not respected

The investigation undoubtedly shows that several announcements in Éxito’s policy are not respected, in particular:

  • Zero deforestation – ”Grupo Éxito sells beef originating from loyal suppliers that have zero deforestation commitments and/or protection agreements which guarantee zeo deforestation, meat quality and animal well-being” . The company also states that the minimum commitment is that “activities are carried out while managing resources, respecting national agricultural frontier, minimizing the pressure on ecosystems and protecting biodiversity”.The EIA investigation proves that neither the zero deforestation nor the respect of the agricultural frontier commitments  are met.

  • Traceability : ”Maximum wanted: To have the possibility to state the conditions of the production process from breeding to packaging” This traceability is not seen by the group as a mandatory minimum level but as a maximum wanted, which is not a very compelling commitment in terms of accountability.

  • Transparency : To give transparency and traceability to consumers”. In 2019, alongside the EIA’s investigation, Envol Vert submitted two requests to group Éxito to obtain the origin of procured meat :

    •  The customer service replied it was confidential information.
    • As for the supermarket, they stated that the batch originated from 2 farms of indirect suppliers, but underlined that they didn’t have information regarding indirect suppliers and shifted the responsibility of the follow-up to the ICA. 

Blanks in group Casino’s policy

  • Group Casino doesn’t have a vigilance plan implemented in Columbia. It doesn’t deem cattle breeding as a risk for deforestation. During an interview between Envol Vert and group Éxito’s  CSR manager in November 2019, the latter stated that :

    “In Columbia, I can guarantee that deforestation won’t move an inch on a 100% of my supply chain; the biggest deforestation source of the country are what we call illicit cultures. In other words, all those who use cocaïne in this world are the ones who deforest”

    These words show the ignorance or the neglect of the group towards the deforestation issue, in particular when related to cattle breeding, which is the main source of déforestation.

  • The policy never specifies the means implemented to achieve defined objectives (tools or activities) and never mentions either the milestones or the deadline to reach them.

  • No risk analysis is carried out by group Éxito on the following topics:

    • Financing of armed groups
    • Cattle laundering
    • Land grabbing
    • Corruption risk
  • Although group Éxito signed in August 2020 the beef meat zero deforestation voluntary agreements promoted by the Columbian government, it has weirdly enough erased from its own policy currently published on its website the zero deforestation commitments that existed in the version provided to Envol Vert in December 2020. Envol Vert wonders about this modification whereas the last reports published on the group could have given hope for a reinforcement of their policy.

Still Casino’s double dealing with a lot of Greenwashing but few concrete actions

  • Monitoring: ”farms of regular beef meat suppliers are monitored based on zero deforestation criterias by a third party independent from the company”. In december 2020, the group presented its “annual monitoring for the preservation of ecosystems and the protection of the agricultural frontier”. It states that group Exito includes:

    • 39 farmers for which it assessed all the lands
    • over 37 000 hectares which were monitored thanks to the GLOBAL FOREST WATCH PRO tool
    • over 65% of suppliers which have around 0% of gross deforestation acknowledged.  

    In the media and on social media the group declare they were “the leader in Columbia for the transformation of productive livestock practices to protect biodiversity”However : 

    • Results of this monitoring are not openly available or communicated in detail (for instance, the group doesn’t five any information regarding the remaining 35% of suppliers). There is moreover no explanation of the methodology for the “around 0% of gross deforestation acknowledged”.
    • Communications on this monitoring are incomplete and don’t allow the understanding of the monitored scope (fairs, auctions, intermediaries…) nor the related turnover.
    • This monitoring doesn’t include the analysis of indirect suppliers and can therefore not ensure zero deforestation.
  • Label Group Éxito has established the Ganso label, which takes into account the maxima wanted by the group’s policy. During the launch of this label, one of the responsibles stated:

    Even though all the meat we will sell will come from farms in line with the sustainable breeding model, we will have a special label on meat to validate additional criteria such as traceability […] and it will be visible so that customers can know they are buying a product that meets high sustainability norms.”

    This GANSO label dedicated to sustainable cattle breeding is actually closer to a continuous progress approach than a label (it includes 3 levels, the first of which is less than 50% of the criterias). The traceability guaranteed by the label doesn’t apply to indirect suppliers. It is therefore impossible to guarantee zero deforestation in the supply chain.

Assessment of the total area deforested in 2020 due to group Éxito’s activities in Columbia

As a reminder, group Éxito buys between 6.5% and 10% of all the meat sold in Columbia.
The share of meat produced in Columbia for local consumption is 97%. It is therefore possible to know the total volume of Columbian meat bought by group Éxito.

Deforestation in Columbia has reached a total of 160 000 ha of tropical forests in 2020 according to Global Forest Watch. Moreover, cattle breeding, the largest source of deforestation, is responsible for
70% of this deforestation.

We can therefore assume that group Éxito is responsible for approximately 7 200 ha of déforestation in 2020 because of its purchase of beef products, which is more than 10 000 of internal football fields.

0ha
of forests destroyed by Casino in 2020 (estimate)

This figure alone should compel the group to implement a strong policy as soon as possible. This is an estimation based on general statistics and assumptions for deforestation allocation. It does not take into account more precise data regarding the origin of cattle procured by group Éxito.

See the calculation methodology

Requests from Envol Vert to Casino for its Colombian subsidiary

Fix a reference date for the beef sector (as of January 1, 2011 as per agreements in Colombia on zero-deforestation), date from which neither deforestation of natural forest ecosystems nor conversion of other ecosystems is accepted in the whole supply chain, starting from birth of the animal.  

Achieve the objective by the end of 2022 as per the requirements of the policy.  Apply the policy to deforestation and illegal land conversion as a top priority, and then to any land conversion in High Conservation Value (HCV) and High Carbon Stock (HCS) areas. 

Switch the group purchases to sustainable supplies for 50% by 2025 (silvopastoralism, regenerative cattle ranching, etc.) with a high productivity per hectare (not below 3 LU / hectare depending on ecosystem type).

Include in this analysis every single activity of the supply chain, starting with breeding farming from birth of the animal, meat packing, distribution and retail, cattle laundering, corruption, land grabbing, financial support to armed groups, etc. This analysis shall be conducted by independent third parties to ensure objectivity.

  • Implement a moratorium with suppliers located within 100km of deforestation fronts and national parks until direct and indirect suppliers are taken under full control,  
  • Ensure no “cattle laundering” in the supply chain thanks to a strict control of the animal productivity at every  level of the supply chain, 
  • Organise additional checks for suppliers in at-risk areas such as:

    • areas close to the agricultural frontier to guarantee they are not involved in deforestation 
    • other areas with a public legal status including national parks
  • Ensure no corruption, no document fraud, and no financial support to armed groups by a  supplier control and monitoring plan,  
  • In case deforestation is identified, take corrective actions and sanctions, and stop business relationships until an auditor has confirmed that corrective actions have been implemented by the concerned supplier. In addition, action required immediately for the suppliers identified by the EIA report.  

Consider in this monitoring system:

  • the total beef purchases of the group (fresh meat, frozen meat, processed meat, etc.), 
  • all suppliers, including direct and indirect suppliers, at any level of the supply chain starting from birth of the animal, 
  • different sales models (live animal suppliers, trade fairs, meat packers, slaughterhouses, etc.),
  • the reference date with respect to deforestation (january 2011) as per the national voluntary agreements. 
A follow-up shall be arranged on results and objectives; it shall:
  • be based on KPIs and methods, and validated by an independent third-party,
  • specify the methodology and sources used, 
  • present the results and make reports available to the public. In case of impact, it shall identify the concerned products and concerned stores, and clearly clarify the actions to be taken, 
  • demonstrate the appropriate monitoring and regular evaluation of its effectiveness.
This system shall be followed by independent audits, which are not linked to the meat market, and findings shall be readily available for the public.

  • Retain intermediaries thanks to the implementation of a bonus in order to encourage farmers to control their suppliers; this system differs from quality incentives,
  • Limit the number of intermediaries and limit buying cattle at auction which cause a loss of traceability, and rather encourage direct supplies with long-term contracts,
  • Stop standard payment terms at 60 or 90 days which force to deal with large-sized intermediaries (direct suppliers) who use “trade secret” as an excuse for not providing the traceability information,
  • Encourage direct purchases from the primary producers through associations or farmer cooperatives. These organisations allow transparency in a formal way while connecting all actors of the supply chain,
  • Provide heavy support to producers, technically and economically speaking, in order to improve productivity from the first stage of the chain which is the most at-risk in terms of deforestation; tend to an exclusive supply from producers involved in silvopastoralism or other alternative solutions such as regenerative cattle ranching, sustainable systems, etc. with a high productivity per hectare,
  • Give a greater place to meat packing plants and treat them as strategic partners in the fight against deforestation, and not only as service providers. 
  • Provide technical and financial support,  
  • Include all players in the supply chain management system,
  • Create a useful tool checked by third-parties, based on official data, using a methodology and making results public, in order to allow meat traceability. This tool shall be developed and improved from the existing monitoring systems, 
  • Develop a system based on obligations of results and not on obligations of means, including appropriate measures to prevent « cattle laundering » and « land grabbing ».

Fix a reference date for the beef sector (as of January 1, 2011 as per agreements in Colombia on zero-deforestation), date from which neither deforestation of natural forest ecosystems nor conversion of other ecosystems is accepted in the whole supply chain, starting from birth of the animal.  

Achieve the objective by the end of 2022 as per the requirements of the policy.  Apply the policy to deforestation and illegal land conversion as a top priority, and then to any land conversion in High Conservation Value (HCV) and High Carbon Stock (HCS) areas. 

Switch the group purchases to sustainable supplies for 50% by 2025 (silvopastoralism, regenerative cattle ranching, etc.) with a high productivity per hectare (not below 3 LU / hectare depending on ecosystem type).

Include in this analysis every single activity of the supply chain, starting with breeding farming from birth of the animal, meat packing, distribution and retail, cattle laundering, corruption, land grabbing, financial support to armed groups, etc. This analysis shall be conducted by independent third parties to ensure objectivity.

  • Implement a moratorium with suppliers located within 100km of deforestation fronts and national parks until direct and indirect suppliers are taken under full control,  
  • Ensure no “cattle laundering” in the supply chain thanks to a strict control of the animal productivity at every  level of the supply chain, 
  • Organise additional checks for suppliers in at-risk areas such as:

    • areas close to the agricultural frontier to guarantee they are not involved in deforestation 
    • other areas with a public legal status including national parks
  • Ensure no corruption, no document fraud, and no financial support to armed groups by a  supplier control and monitoring plan,  
  • In case deforestation is identified, take corrective actions and sanctions, and stop business relationships until an auditor has confirmed that corrective actions have been implemented by the concerned supplier. In addition, action required immediately for the suppliers identified by the EIA report.  

Consider in this monitoring system:

  • the total beef purchases of the group (fresh meat, frozen meat, processed meat, etc.), 
  • all suppliers, including direct and indirect suppliers, at any level of the supply chain starting from birth of the animal, 
  • different sales models (live animal suppliers, trade fairs, meat packers, slaughterhouses, etc.),
  • the reference date with respect to deforestation (january 2011) as per the national voluntary agreements. 
A follow-up shall be arranged on results and objectives; it shall:
  • be based on KPIs and methods, and validated by an independent third-party,
  • specify the methodology and sources used, 
  • present the results and make reports available to the public. In case of impact, it shall identify the concerned products and concerned stores, and clearly clarify the actions to be taken, 
  • demonstrate the appropriate monitoring and regular evaluation of its effectiveness.
This system shall be followed by independent audits, which are not linked to the meat market, and findings shall be readily available for the public.

  • Retain intermediaries thanks to the implementation of a bonus in order to encourage farmers to control their suppliers; this system differs from quality incentives,
  • Limit the number of intermediaries and limit buying cattle at auction which cause a loss of traceability, and rather encourage direct supplies with long-term contracts,
  • Stop standard payment terms at 60 or 90 days which force to deal with large-sized intermediaries (direct suppliers) who use “trade secret” as an excuse for not providing the traceability information,
  • Encourage direct purchases from the primary producers through associations or farmer cooperatives. These organisations allow transparency in a formal way while connecting all actors of the supply chain,
  • Provide heavy support to producers, technically and economically speaking, in order to improve productivity from the first stage of the chain which is the most at-risk in terms of deforestation; tend to an exclusive supply from producers involved in silvopastoralism or other alternative solutions such as regenerative cattle ranching, sustainable systems, etc. with a high productivity per hectare,
  • Give a greater place to meat packing plants and treat them as strategic partners in the fight against deforestation, and not only as service providers. 
  • Provide technical and financial support,  
  • Include all players in the supply chain management system,
  • Create a useful tool checked by third-parties, based on official data, using a methodology and making results public, in order to allow meat traceability. This tool shall be developed and improved from the existing monitoring systems, 
  • Develop a system based on obligations of results and not on obligations of means, including appropriate measures to prevent « cattle laundering » and « land grabbing ».

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