Global agribusiness giant Cargill has been urged to do more to fight deforestation and protect human rights by an activist group and researchers, AP News reported.

Environmental group Stand.earth handed the US-based company a report claiming it was not following through on commitments to help end such practices, the 14 June report said.

The group’s report stated that the company should take the lead in ensuring it carries out its promises to fight forced child labour in the cocoa industry and protect forests and other natural resources, AP News wrote.

“The destruction of the natural world is driven by agribusiness and agribusiness is driven by Cargill,” Stand.earth executive director Todd Paglia was quoted as saying at a news conference in Minnesota, where Cargill is based.

The environmental group also took out full page advertisements highlighting the report in the New York Times and Minneapolis Star Tribune, the report said.

In response to the report, Cargill released a statement saying the group had “grossly mis-characterised” the company’s efforts.

“At Cargill, we have an unwavering commitment to protect the human rights of those who work in our operations, supply chains and communities, and work tirelessly to eliminate deforestation and conversion in South America,” the statement said.

“We do not source soy[abeans] from farmers who clear land illegally and have controls in place to prevent non-compliant product from entering our supply chains.”

The company said it had been transparent in its land use and human rights efforts, saying it took action when its policies had been violated, Cargill added.

According to its 2022 annual report, Cargill recorded US$165bn in revenue for the fiscal year ending 31 May 2022. The company operates in 70 countries, with sales in 125 countries.

The Stand.earth report stated that 500,000km² of forest had been destroyed through human activity from 2015 to 2020, primarily due to the expansion of agriculture in South America, Central America and parts of Africa, AP News wrote.

Although Cargill had promised to end deforestation practices for products in its supply chain, the Stand.earth report claimed the company had invested in ports and other infrastructure in South America that would lead to the removal of forests for land to grow soyabeans, the report said.

Compiled with help from Brazilian journalism organisation Repórter Brasil and non-profit group AidEnvironment, the Stand.earth report also claimed Cargill had not followed through on its commitments, first in 2001 and again in 2010, to end or at least reduce forced child labour in the cocoa industry, AP News wrote.

Cargill is one of the world’s largest cocoa suppliers, according to the report.

The Stand.earth report cited a US Department of Labor-funded study that found the number of children harvesting cocoa in the Ivory Coast and Ghana and the prevalence of hazardous child labour in both those countries had increased.

“We are not asking for anything the company has not already promised,” the report said in its conclusion. “We seek implementation, not new commitments.”