In this dedicated section we explain how Santander Brazil applies the Group’s global policies and its local procedures to its activities in the Amazon.
Santander is working to protect the Amazon rainforest and promoting sustainable development, which is critical to tackling climate change and conserving biodiversity. We need economic growth, but it must be green. Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon has been taking place over several decades, in part due to the spread of ranching, fuelled by increasing demand for meat. Deforestation, however, cannot be attributed to a single cause. Logging, mining, property speculation, lack of clear land titles, large infrastructure projects in the region have all played a role. Out of these, however, the key drivers have been speculation and undefined land ownership: speculators, after burning the forest, will often raise cattle on land whose ownership is not clear as a way of strengthening their claim.
Given the growing concerns about climate change and biodiversity conservation, in addition to the information available about Santander’s global policy on Environmental, Social & Climate Change Risk Management: activities that require special attention and prohibited activities (link) (ESCC), and its commitment to the Equator Principles, we detail below the additional care Santander takes when lending to Brazilian clients with operations in the Amazon.
Santander’s global ESCC policy applies to our activities in financing clients with operations in the Amazon region. It requires our clients who are lumber companies that harvest native tropical wood species to hold Forest Stewardship Certification (FSC); our conducting annual reviews of large companies involved in agribusiness; and places a special focus on the following activities:
Santander finances meat processors, lumber companies, farmers and ranchers among many other business sectors in the Amazon region and as a responsible bank we constantly seek to eliminate or minimize possible social and environmental impacts of our financing.
Santander is working with clients, governments, regulators, and NGOs, to help end illegal deforestation.
Santander Brazil is a member of Febraban’s committee on forestry and agribusiness. In March 2023, Febraban approved a protocol (NORMATIVO SARB 026/2023) that set the standards for managing the risk of illegal deforestation in the bovine meat chain and defined guidelines to be adopted by its signatories. This is a major step forward as it is the first sector-wide environmental protocol for financing beef processing. Since it will apply to every major bank in Brazil, it is considered a highly effective way of sustainable change and addressing deforestation.
By signing the protocol, Santander has aligned its commitment with that of the Brazilian financial industry to require beef processing clients with slaughterhouses in the Brazilian Legal Amazon region to end illegal deforestation by December 2025 from direct suppliers of cattle and Tier 1 indirect suppliers (supplier of the direct supplier). Under this requirement, suppliers must meet mid-term milestones, which consist of having a traceability and monitoring system, and continuously disclosing KPIs to demonstrate they are meeting their commitments.
In 2021, well before the publication of the Febraban protocol, Santander Brazil began engaging with more than a dozen beef processing clients about ending deforestation in their supply chain by 2025. This engagement led to several of them declaring commitments online in 2022 and developing plans to check on Tier 1 indirect suppliers and, under Plano Amazônia, led Santander to work with other banks to come up with the Febraban protocol.
For years, the bank has been working with our clients to promote sustainable development. Santander was the first bank in Brazil to require native species logging companies to have FSC as a condition for becoming a client. And it was the first private-sector Brazilian bank to develop, in 2002, credit analysis that looked at environmental and social risk and the first, in 2016, to formally incorporate a sustainability rating into the credit rating of its Corporate segment clients.
Since then, the bank has taken a number of further steps. There are more details below, but overall, our framework ensures the following:
Santander Brazil has an E&S Risk department of ten professionals in São Paulo, all of whom have expertise in this area. The unit has analysts with degrees in agronomy, biology, geology, environmental management and chemical engineering.
Santander Brazil has also a dedicated team focused on identifying and creating sustainable innovative solutions to support Santander customers transition to more sustainable practices in the region.
Farmers and ranchers
A large part of the forest that is being burned is on land that does not have clear title or is government-owned property. To help prevent this, before lending money to farmers and ranchers, Santander verifies who has title to the land or has a lease on that property.
As part of its credit approval for loans to farmers and ranchers, Santander retains a leading-edge satellite-imaging firm that monitors 17,000 as of June 2023 properties that it is financing or that are taken as collateral. This firm supplies us with daily information on embargoes issued by the government prohibiting production on specific illegally-deforested plots.
The satellite-imaging firm also supplies us with data on the clients about modern slave labour, as well as incursions into officially-recognized indigenous lands and parks and conservation areas. If there are problems, we will contact the client and require an explanation. If material breaches of environmental law and regulations are identified, under the terms of our standard contract, the bank has power to take remedial action including, where applicable, declaring the early maturity of the debt and demanding its payment. In addition to these tools, Santander also uses the internet-based satellite-imaging tools Global Forest Watch and MapBiomas. These tools allow us to see satellite images of possible tree cover loss over a specific time period and with good detail on client’s farms and ranches.
In July 2020, Santander Brazil announced a plan to promote sustainable development in the Amazon, in collaboration with the two other largest private-sector banks in Brazil. The Plan focuses on join actions around three key strategic objectives: (1) elimination of deforestation in the supply chain of cattle for beef processors; (2) fostering the forest bioeconomy; and (3) improving connectivity. In the past, the Plan had also prioritized identifying solutions for addressing the lack of clarity on land ownership, one of the main drivers of deforestation, for which a report has been prepared with the support of major law firms and shared with public stakeholders to support the development of public policies to tackle this challenging problem in the region. The beef-related part of the Plano Amazônia is now incorporated into the Febraban protocol.
Environmental and social reviews of companies
For corporate clients across Brazil, not just in the Amazon, Santander has a set of ESCC processes and controls that take into consideration not only if our clients are legally compliant but also have good practices. Over the past decade, Santander Brazil has conducted reviews of more than 2,000 corporate client groups a year. Details of these numbers are available on the Santander Brazil website. This covers companies in every region of Brazil, including those that have operations in the Amazon such as large soy producers, soy traders, beef processors, mining and logging companies. For beef producers, we follow their supplier practices closely.
Scope. These procedures require that the bank conducts periodic ESCC reviews in the Wholesale and Large Retail (E3) segments, that:
Methodology. Santander Brazil uses an ESCC rating system for the companies it reviews. It directly affects the credit rating for clients in the Corporate segment. This ESCC model includes an assessment of supply chain practices, fines, degraded land and profile of E&S management. The model also includes climate factors in two ways: (1) a water stress calculator that considers the client's economic activity, the river basin(s) in which it is located, as well as the measures adopted to save water and (2) an assessment of the customer's resilience to climate change in general, such as new weather patterns, legislation or consumer preferences.
Supply chain. A key part of the analysis of agribusiness clients in the Amazon is a thorough check of their supply chain. For this, Santander uses internet-based tools such as Trase and government data on fines or audits, as well as news reports. If the bank discovers problems, it questions clients on their practices and specific incidents. If material breaches of environmental law and regulations are identified, under the terms of our standard contract the bank has power to take remedial action including, where applicable, declaring the early maturity of the debt and demanding its payment.
Working with others to stop deforestation. Santander Brazil participates in three external initiatives that propose solutions to stop deforestation. It is a founder of The Round Table on Responsible Soy (RTRS), and were its first president from 2006 to 2009, during the crucial phase of creating its first sustainability standard. The bank is also a founder and board member of the Brazilian Roundtable on Sustainable Livestock (MBPS , in Portuguese), a multi-stakeholder initiative founded in 2008 to promote better ranching practices in Brazil.
Innovative solutions in the region
Santander is actively engaged in a range of initiatives aimed at addressing this issue, including being part of the Plano Amazônia coalition and collaborating with Brazil’s banking federation, Febraban, in setting best practices for the financing of the beef processing sector to help end deforestation.
At the COP 27 in Egypt, Santander announced the creation of Biomas, a new forest company with shareholders Vale, Marfrig, Suzano, Itaú and Rabobank. With the planting of 2 billion native trees, Biomas aims to protect and restore 4 million hectares in Brazil over the next 20 years and to reduce around 900 million tonnes of CO2e from the atmosphere. It will generate high-quality carbon credits and employment in the regions most in need. The first stage of the project will be to prospect areas, scale up native tree nurseries, engage local communities, discuss the use of public concessions as project development sites, and implement pilot projects. Each shareholder is initially providing BRL 20 million in equity to set up operations.
The forest bioeconomy has great potential for changing the tide of deforestation, increasing the value of standing forests and creating jobs, sources of income and development. Nevertheless, very few businesses can realize that potential at speed and at scale.
Amazon Journey Platform
The forest bioeconomy has great potential for changing the tide of deforestation, increasing value by planting forests and creating jobs, sources of income and development. However, few businesses can realize that potential at speed and with the necessary scale. Alongside the Amazon Plan coalition, the Certi Foundation and the Vale Fund, Santander launched the Amazon Journey Platform in November 2022 to strengthen the innovation ecosystem associated with the forest bioeconomy. It intends to mobilize 20,000 talented people from the region through innovation and training in bioeconomy entrepreneurship. With 3,000 people expected to complete the training, the 200 most promising nature-based start-ups will be selected to receive funding, mentoring and technical support. From those 200, we will help 100 start-ups strengthen their business models and products to reach the market and investors. Furthermore, the platform intends to create a microcorporate venture structure to assist companies interested in investing in and scaling up the start-ups. Finally, 10 venture builders,
accelerators and incubators will receive help to support a growing number of bioeconomy start-ups from the region. Our partner the Certi Foundation was named “Top Innovator” in the Amazon Bioeconomy Challenge 2022 at the World Economic Forum.
In December 2022, Santander became the first bank to join the Innovative Finance for the Amazon, Cerrado and Chaco (IFACC) initiative. IFACC is supported by The Nature Conservancy, the Tropical Forest Alliance, the World Economic Forum, and the United Nations Environment Programme. Launched in Glasgow in November 2021, the IFACC seeks to accelerate financing for sustainable production and bring together complementary capabilities to design and scale up such mechanisms as farm loans, farmland investment funds, corporate debt instruments and capital market offerings. It also shares lessons learned among members, who have committed USD 3 billion in disbursements so far by 2025.
In January 2023, we joined forces with Grupo Gaia, Conexsus, Belterra, Vale Fund and the Good Energies Foundation to create an unprecedented Green CRA (Agribusiness Receivables Certificate) worth BRL 17 million, which seeks to provide credit aimed at agroforestry and nontimber forest product cooperatives and eco-businesses in five biomes in Brazil, with a strong presence in the Amazon. The certificate will provide working capital for 22 community-led businesses such as cocoa, bananas and cassava and will benefit around 4,500 producers that don't have access to traditional credit lines. It uses a blended finance model which allows credit takers to access cheaper capital to improve their production practices.
Internet for forest communities
We invested seed money in Instituto Povos da Floresta to enable the launch of an ambitious project that will bring fast, quality internet to around 4,000 remote communities in the Amazon by 2025. Our support will allow the project to be piloted using Starlink's new service, a battery kit and solar panels that will be installed in 30 pilot communities. Internet access will make several services that are currently not accessible to those communities possible, including health care through telemedicine, education, productive inclusion and environmental control. Under this initiative, Instituto Povos da Floresta will be able to receive government subsidies to help achieve its goals.
First version July 2021 and last update July 2023.