French international banking group BNP Paribas announced on 15 February that it will no longer provide financial services to customers who grow or buy Brazilian soyabeans in Amazonian land that has been cleared or converted since 2008.

The company said Brazilian beef and soyabean production had accelerated deforestation in the country’s Amazon and Cerrado regions which “legal or illegal, jeopardises the ecological integrity and future of these two biomes”.

There was an “urgent need” for all relevant stakeholders to prioritise land use strategies that integrated zero deforestation, sustainable production and a positive social impact, BNP said.

“Financial institutions exposed to the agricultural sector in Brazil must contribute to this fight against deforestation,” the statement said.

BNP said the move was part of its commitment to encourage its customers producing or buying beef or soya from the country’s Amazon and Cerrado regions to become ‘zero deforestation’ and to transparently demonstrate their progress.

As a result, BNP said it would only provide its products or services to companies with a strategy to achieve zero deforestation in their production and supply chains by 2025.

It [the policy] reflects a growing understanding of the challenges associated with biodiversity, not only within the financial community, but also among many corporate clients,” said BNP Paribas head of corporate engagement Antoine Sire.

The company said it would also encourage its clients not to produce or buy beef or soyabeans from cleared or converted land in the country’s Cerrado region after 1 January 2021, in line with global standards.

In addition, BNP said it would encourage all its livestock farmers to change their practices towards a system that was more respectful of animal welfare.

BNP Paribas is a leading bank in Europe and has a presence in 72 countries.