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Eleven environmental organizations and indigenous officials on Wednesday sued the Casino group in French courts. They point to the group’s responsibility for deforestation in the Amazon with the sale of meat from extensive farms in Brazil and Colombia.
Is the French group Casino partly responsible for deforestation in the Amazon? ? At least that’s what French and American non-governmental organizations (NGOs), as well as representatives of the indigenous peoples of the Brazilian and Colombian Amazon, claim. The international coalition has also gone on the offensive : the 11 French and foreign organizations assigned the 3 March the French multinational before the judicial tribunal of Saint-Étienne, the city where the group’s headquarters are located.
>> To read: Deforestation in the Amazon: 2020, the worst year in 12 years
The NGO group accuses the French multinational for selling beef products in its stores in South America, linked to deforestation and land grabbing from indigenous peoples. “We ask the group to respect the environmental charter by adopting new measures environmental and repair the prejudices suffered by indigenous peoples “, tells France 24 Sebastian Mabile, lawyer for the international coalition of associations. AT this title, we are demanding more than three million euros in compensation. “
An unprecedented step
The approach is unique. “This is the first time that a chain of hypermarkets has been taken to court for deforestation and human rights violations in its supply chain,” said association officials at the press conference organized the 3 March. To do this, the civil party is based on French law, and more precisely on the basis of the law on the duty of vigilance adopted in March 2017. This French law requires companies based in France and employing more than 5 000 employees to take appropriate and effective measures to prevent serious violations of human rights and the environment throughout their supply chain, failing which they incur liability and may be ordered to pay damages.
In this legal battle that is opening, the collective ensures that it has evidence gathered by the Climate Crime Analysis Center. The latter claims that the Casino group has regularly purchased beef from three slaughterhouses that source their livestock from 592 suppliers responsible for at least 50 000 hectares of deforestation between 2008 and 2020, an area equivalent to five times the size of Paris.
Environmental and human damage
The Casino Group is the largest supermarket chain in Brazil and Colombia, with their respective brands Grupo Pão of Açúcar (GPA) and Grupo Éxito. Casino activities in South America represent almost half (47 %) of the group’s turnover.
“It is therefore normal that those who derive benefits from the environmental and human disaster linked to deforestation, largely from cattle breeding, pay,” said Lucie Chatelain, lawyer for the Sherpa association. We know that cattle breeding is the main source of deforestation in South America, particularly in Brazil. According to the Brazilian Space Agency (INPE), deforestation of the Amazon rainforest has reached its highest level in twelve years. The Amazon is in danger of reaching a point of no return, moving from a tropical rainforest to a savannah.
In addition to environmental damage, the complainants also want to assert human rights abuses. “We, indigenous peoples, are the guardians of the Amazon and indigenous lands, asserts Luiz Floy People Terena in Brazil and legal advisor to the Coordination of Indigenous Organizations of the Brazilian Amazon (COIAB), during the press conference. Beyond the financial damage, the damage suffered on indigenous lands affects our way of life, threatens the survival of our culture, our traditions and ultimately, that of our people. “
Contacted by France 24, Casino’s communications department did not wish to comment on an ongoing legal proceeding, of which the group has just learned. She nevertheless insisted on affirming to the editorial staff that “the Brazilian subsidiary GPA deploys a systematic and rigorous policy of controlling the origin of the beef delivered by its suppliers”. And to continue, “the Casino group, through its subsidiaries in Latin America, has been actively fighting, and for several years, against deforestation linked to cattle breeding in Brazil and Colombia, taking into account the complexity supply chains. “
For its part, the coalition maintains that the French brand, despite the formal notices, has still not committed to excluding meat or processed products from deforestation from its Grupo stores. Pão of Acúcar, Casino or Grupo Éxito. “In 2021, we can go to Mars but a group like Casino is not able to eliminate deforestation from its entire supply chain. This is unacceptable”, annoys Boris Patentreger, co-founder of the Envol Vert association. The humanitarian manager also deplores “the double talk” of the multinational. “With its Naturalia and Monoprix brands, the group is on the one hand playing the organic card for its French urban customers and, on the other, participating in deforestation in the Amazon.”
Casino and the others …
The Casino group is not the only distributor to be singled out. The investigation site Disclose denounced the role of the Carrefour brand in the deforestation of the Brazilian Amazon. AT at this stage, “we have chosen to sue the Casino group because it is established in Colombia and Brazil, unlike Carrefour which is only present in Brazil, but our requirements with regard to this group are the same . ”
Distributors are not the only ones responsible. The public authorities also bear a heavy share of responsibility, according to the collective. Last December, the Brazilian government removed all measures to fight deforestation in its national climate action plan although the disappearance of forests remains the main source of greenhouse gas emissions in the country. .
Powerless against the American public authorities, French NGOs hope that the approach will at least “raise awareness of the responsibility that bears every French group in the world “, insists Me Sebastian Mabile. Given the extent of the legal process initiated, the trial should not begin before 12 to 18 month.