Goal 13: Climate Action

British supermarkets threaten to boycott brazilian products

If Brazil passes a controversial law that threatens the Amazon rainforest, Tesco, M&S and Lidl are among those saying they will stop buying from Brazil 

By hannah rochell 
may 5 2021

Brazil is once again trying to legalise the private occupation of public land, mostly in the Amazon, a move that would have serious repercussions on the rainforest as well as the indigenous communities that live in and protect it. Brazil first attempted this a year ago, but changed its mind after more than 40 organisations made similar threats to the ones that have been made this week. If the bill went ahead, it would mean that none of the companies who have signed the letter would source items like beef burgers and biscuits made with palm oil from Brazil. So what’s going on?

Who has signed up to the boycott?

Tesco, Aldi, Marks & Spencer, Lidl, Sainsbury’s, Co-op, Waitrose, Iceland, ASDA, Morrisons, Burger King and Greggs have all signed an open letter about the proposed law, along with other businesses. In it, they say ‘we would like to reiterate that we consider the Amazon as a vital part of the earth system that’s essential to the security of our planet as well as being a critical part of a prosperous future for Brazilians and all of society.’ They go on to say that if Brazil changes its mind, they will continue to support the country on ‘the development of sustainable land management and agriculture. We are willing partners to enable this in a way that supports economic development whilst upholding the rights of Indigenous Peoples and traditional communities.’ In short, do better or we won’t work with you anymore.

image: Shutterstock

Land grabbing

Conservationists point out that if legalised, the proposed law could legitimise land grabbing, which is currently illegal. It’s thought that land grabbing would lead to more of the precious Amazon rainforest, which is vital in our battle against climate change, being burned and cleared to make way for beef cattle and soya crops. At the moment, there are protections in Brazilian law that prevent this and that help organisations with high environmental standards source products from the country while still sticking to their climate commitments. As the companies continue in the letter, ‘the existing protections and land designations enshrined in Brazilian legislation have been instrumental in our organisations having trust that our products, services, investments and business relationships in Brazil are aligned with the commitments we hold as environmentally and socially responsible enterprises, and that our customers and stakeholders expect of us.’

Why is Brazil doing this?

It’s a sad fact that in spite of our increased knowledge and understanding about how vital the Amazon rainforest is when combating climate change (it stores a huge amount of carbon), deforestation in Brazil reached a 12 year high in 2020. It has skyrocketed by nearly 50% under President Jair Bolsonaro, who was elected as the country’s leader in 2019. Invasions of indigenious territories also rose by 135% in that year. In fact, the president’s actions are viewed as so serious that some are calling for him to appear before the Hague on charges of crimes against humanity and ecocide. Standing up against this law really does mean standing up for people and the planet.

image: Shutterstock

3 things you can do to protect the Amazon rainforest

1. Make a note of the companies that have signed up for the boycott. When buying from smaller organisations, be sure that they can account for their supply chains. Many brands - including our parent brand BOTTLETOP - support the economic development of Brazil while protecting the rainforest and local people.


2. Cattle ranching and soya production (which is used to feed the cattle) accounts for a large proportion of Amazon forest clearance (80%, according to WWF). While being careful about where you buy your meat is a start, a 2020 study found that around 20% of soya exports and at least 17% of beef exports to the EU may be ‘contaminated with illegal deforestation’. Cutting down on your beef consumption - or cutting it out altogether - is a much more effective move.


3. So you’ve learnt about the importance of protecting the 

Amazon rainforest? Share your knowledge with friends and family. Post facts on social media and support conservation initiatives.