REUTERS NEXT-Natura exec says Brazil not doing enough to stop illegal deforestation

14 Jan 2021 / 23:31 H.

    By Jake Spring

    BRASILIA, Jan 14 (Reuters) - Brazil's government needs to do more to combat rising illegal deforestation in the Amazon rainforest that is damaging the country's business reputation, said João Paulo Ferreira, Latin America CEO at cosmetics maker Natura & Co.

    The business community is having positive discussions with Vice President Hamilton Mourão, who has taken the lead on Amazon issues, Ferreira said.

    But this talk is still not being reflected in the actions of the government, he said.

    "Why are there no results?" Ferreira asked.

    Natura uses a variety of ingredients from the Amazon in its cosmetics, generally sourcing them through local indigenous or other traditional foraging communities.

    Amazon deforestation climbed to a 12-year high in 2020, government data showed, with an area seven times the size of London being cleared.

    Environmental advocates blame President Jair Bolsonaro who has presided over the steep climb in destruction. The right-wing leader says the Amazon must be developed to eliminate poverty, while activists say he is emboldening illegal logging, mining and ranching.

    Ferreira said that the government was dismantling environmental protection mechanisms and disregarding scientific facts, although he did not mention Bolsonaro by name.

    While Natura's business has not been affected, the government's Amazon policy is hurting Brazilian exports and leading some products to be sold at a discount, Ferreira said.

    Stopping illegal Amazon destruction is the government's responsibility and "non-negotiable," the executive said.

    "We need to demand action in this direction," Ferreira said.

    Bolsonaro, Mourão, Environment Minister Ricardo Salles and other Brazilian officials say that economic development will replace illegal jobs with legal ones. The government particularly emphasizes growing the "bioeconomy," a term for cosmetics, food, medicine and other products based on Amazon's rich biological resources.

    Ferreira said that bioeconomy should be developed as a solution but that it takes a long time.

    If Brazil wants short-term environmental results, the biggest opportunity is the market for "environmental services" - a blanket term for paying locals to preserve native vegetation like forest - such as selling carbon offsets, he said.

    (Reporting by Jake Spring, Editing by Nick Zieminski)

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