Rabobank called on to stop financing industrial meat and dairy production

31st Jan 23 by Martin Bowman

Rabobank called on to stop billions of dollars in finance to polluting industrial meat and dairy companies

New research published today has found that between 2015-21, Dutch multinational banking and financial services company Rabobank, provided billions of dollars in finance to 18 of the world’s most environmentally destructive industrial livestock companies despite having a commitment to the goals of the Paris Agreement, the Dutch Climate Agreement and Commitment to Sustainable Agriculture and Forests. [1]

A group of organisations, including Feedback EU, Feedback Global, World Animal Protection, BankTrack and International Accountability Project have called on Rabobank to urgently stop financing big livestock companies. In a joint-letter to the bank’s CEO, the group highlights that continued exposure to large scale industrial livestock companies will damage Rabobank’s reputation and business, including risks of lost revenue and stranded assets.

The research finds that between 2015-21 Rabobank provided extensive financial services to five of the world’s biggest emitting industrial livestock companies – JBS, Marfrig, Tyson Foods, Dairy Farmers of America and Fonterra, including $1.941 billion in corporate loans, underwriting $1.221 billion million in bond issuances and providing revolving credit facilities.  These ‘Big 5’ generated an estimated 550.8 million tonnes of greenhouse gases (GWP100) in 2021 [2], together emitting nearly as much as the total emissions of the Netherlands and the UK combined [3].

Rabobank also provided financial services to Royal Friesland Campina and Vion Food Group. In 2016, these two companies together emitted an estimated 58 million tonnes GHG [4].

Meat production quadrupled between 1961 and 2015 [5]. With the global meat and dairy industry projected to use up almost half of the world’s 1.5°C emissions budget by 2030 [6], shifting food systems away from industrial livestock production will be key to averting the climate crisis. This will require banks and investors to take decisive action to cut off financial support to the sector over the coming years.

In 2021, the Netherlands announced a €25bn plan to reduce livestock numbers by 30% by 2030 [7] in order to comply with EU nitrate regulations. In October 2022, the Dutch Parliament passed a motion which will require financial institutions to manage credit risks as a result of stranded assets, meaning that they have an obligation to bear losses arising from these types of credit risks themselves. If the Dutch government goes on to adopt the motion and develop specific policies,  Rabobank will need to write off a substantial part of its loan portfolio, unless it takes action to reduce its exposure to industrial livestock companies. This highlights the significant regulatory risks Rabobank is exposed to by continuing to provide finance industrial livestock companies.

Frank Mechielsen, Executive Director at Feedback EU said: “Industrial livestock corporations like JBS are the food system’s biggest cause of emissions, deforestation, human rights abuses, pandemic risks and animal cruelty. They are solely profit-driven and therefore hardwired to mass-produce ever greater quantities of cheap factory farm meat and dairy to preserve the profits of their core business. It is unacceptable for financial institutions like Rabobank to continue fuelling the endless expansion of this polluting industry at the expense of the climate. We need policymakers to use every tool at their disposal to ensure a just transition to lower-meat and dairy production and consumption, including public procurement, redirecting subsidies and regulating industrial livestock companies and their financial backers to cut off the financial fodder for this polluting industry.”

Hannah Greep, Banks & Nature Campaign Lead at BankTrack said: “Our nature and climate demand a reduction in industrial meat production, but banks seemed to have missed the memo and continue to ignore the impacts of their financed activities in this area. Continued investment in climate-intensive sectors such as industrial livestock exacerbates the risks of planetary collapse, drives biodiversity loss and violates human rights; while also posing serious financial consequences for banks like Rabobank. They cannot shy away from this issue any longer.”

Dirk Jan, Director at World Animal Protection Nederland, said: “Rabobank has known for a long time that the global livestock industry causes massive animal suffering, destroys precious nature and is a major contributor to global warming. Moreover, the bank has a great historical responsibility. So far, the steps the bank is taking leave much to be desired, while the urgency is growing by the day. If Rabobank is serious about striving for a sustainable food system, it is not appropriate to continue investing in companies like JBS that are holding back the necessary transition.”

Alexandre Andrade Sampaio, Global Lead on the Right to Development and Latin America and Caribbean coordinator of International Accountability Project, said: “The research clearly shows that by financing the Big 5, Rabobank is not committed to human and environmental rights, worsening the already dire situation of our climate. Companies like Rabobank that finance factory farming should not be receiving support from Public Financial Institutions, if such institutions want to be taken seriously when talking about climate commitments.”

Prof Hans Pörtner, scientist and co-chair of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, speaking last year to the European Parliament, said: “Without reducing and cutting down on meat consumption and the associated high-intensity agriculture systems, we will not be able to keep global warming to 1.5 degrees. That is very clear.” [8]


Foot notes

[1] Rabobank, ´Our Road to Paris Report´, November 17, 2022 2022 https://www.rabobank.com/en/press/search/2022/20221117-rabobank-presenteert-klimaatrapport.html

[2] IATP and Changing Markets Foundation, “Emissions Impossible: Methane Edition” (The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) and the Changing Markets Foundation, November 15, 2022), https://www.iatp.org/emissions-impossible-methane-edition

[3] Hannah Ritchie, Max Roser, and Pablo Rosado, “CO₂ and Greenhouse Gas Emissions,” Our World in Data, May 11, 2020, https://ourworldindata.org/greenhouse-gas-emissions

[4] GRAIN and IATP, “Emissions Impossible: How Big Meat and Dairy Are Heating up the Planet” (GRAIN and the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, 2018), https://www.iatp.org/emissions-impossible

[5] IPES-Food, 2022. The politics of protein: examining claims about livestock, fish, ‘alternative proteins’ and sustainability. https://www.ipes-food.org/_img/upload/files/PoliticsOfProtein.pdf  (2022).

[6] Harwatt, H. (2019) ‘Including animal to plant protein shifts in climate change mitigation policy: a proposed three-step strategy’, Climate Policy. Taylor & Francis, 19(5), pp. 533–541. doi: 10.1080/14693062.2018.1528965. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/14693062.2018.1528965

[7] Tom Levitt, “Netherlands Announces €25bn Plan to Radically Reduce Livestock Numbers,” The Guardian, December 15, 2021, sec. Environment, https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/dec/15/netherlands-announces-25bn-plan-to-radically-reduce-livestock-numbers

[8] Elena Sánchez Nicolás and Carolin Sprick, “Dismay over EU Plans to Keep Paying to Promote Meat,” EUobserver, May 29, 2022, https://euobserver.com/green-economy/155052

[9] Feedback, ‘Butchering the Planet: The Big-Name Financiers Bankrolling Livestock Corporations and Climate Change’ (London: Feedback, 2020), https://feedbackglobal.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/FeedbackReport-ButcheringPlanet-Jul20-HighRes.pdf

[10] European Commission, “Commission Publishes External Study on Future of EU Livestock,” European Commission, October 14, 2020, https://agriculture.ec.europa.eu/news/commission-publishes-external-study-future-eu-livestock-2020-10-14_en

[11] Greenpeace, “Feeding the Problem: The Dangerous Intensification of Animal Farming in Europe” (Greenpeace European Unit, February 2019), https://www.greenpeace.org/static/planet4-eu-unit-stateless/2019/02/83254ee1-190212-feeding-the-problem-dangerous-intensification-of-animal-farming-in-europe.pdf

[12] Ibid.

[13] Greenpeace European Unit, “One Third of EU’s Farming Ad Budget Promoted Meat and Dairy,” Greenpeace European Unit, April 8, 2021, https://www.greenpeace.org/eu-unit/issues/nature-food/45553/one-third-of-eus-farming-ad-budget-promoted-meat-and-dairy

[14] Rosie Frost, “Europeans Eat Twice as Much Meat as the Global Average,” euronews, March 16, 2020, https://www.euronews.com/green/2020/03/16/europeans-eat-twice-as-much-meat-as-the-global-average

[15] IATP and Changing Markets Foundation, “Emissions Impossible: Methane Edition” (The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) and the Changing Markets Foundation, November 15, 2022), https://www.iatp.org/emissions-impossible-methane-edition

[16] https://www.cbs.nl/en-gb/news/2022/11/greenhouse-gas-emissions-2-1-percent-higher-in-2021

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