Nike steps up to protect Amazon rainforest

Image: Gauchos herd cattle
These cattle are among the more than 70 million in Brazil's Amazon, where ranchers have cleared rainforest for grazing land.Paulo Whitaker / Reuters file
/ Source: The Associated Press

Citing a commitment to curbing deforestation, sportswear giant Nike Inc. says it will stop using leather from cattle raised in Brazil's Amazon rainforest.

In a statement, Nike said its Brazilian leather suppliers have until next July 1 to "create an ongoing, traceable and transparent system to provide credible assurances that leather used for Nike products is from cattle raised outside of the Amazon Biome."

"We understand how important rainforests are to the health of the planet and the implications deforestation has on climate change and global warming" the statement added.

Nike did not say how much it spends on Amazon leather.

A statement from Greenpeace praised the company, saying the company's decision was prompted by a recent report from the environmental group showing that leather and meat produced from cattle in the Amazon are major contributors to the region's deforestation.

"We applaud the leadership that Nike is taking on the critical issue of Amazon deforestation," Greenpeace's national campaigns director, Lisa Finaldi, said.

She said deforestation in the Amazon — most of which involves the burning of trees to clear land for ranching and farming — is the world's fourth-biggest emitter of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

According to the Greenpeace report, "Slaughtering the Amazon," which was released in June, "every eight seconds, an acre of Amazon rainforest is destroyed for Brazilian cattle ranching, which is the biggest single driver of deforestation in the world."

The report was released after a three-year investigation that "tracked beef, leather and other cattle products from ranches involved in deforestation at the heart of the Amazon rainforest," Greenpeace said.

The Center for the Brazilian Tanning Industry did not have immediate comment on Nike's announcement, but its president, Luiz Bittencourt, said last week that the sector had the same concerns.

In a signed article published by the Sao Paulo newspaper Diario de Comercio e Industria, he said guidelines were being prepared to guarantee that Brazilian leather is produced in "an environmentally sound way."

Last month, the Greenpeace report prompted Brazil's three largest supermarket chains, Wal-Mart, Carrefour and Pao de Acuar, to announce that they would suspend contracts with suppliers found to be involved in Amazon deforestation, the Brazilian Association of Supermarkets said on its Web site.