The case of Veracel Celulose is useful – as are so many others – in revealing the falseness of business discourse on “sustainability.” Veracel is a modern company, owned in equal parts by the Swedish-Finnish Stora Enso and the Norwegian-Brazilian Aracruz Celulose. Veracel is the owner of 164.000 hectares of land, 78,000 of which have been planted with eucalyptus trees in the State of Bahia, where last year its gigantic pulp mill started operating, with an annual production of 900,000 tons of pulp for export.
In its web-page Veracel states that “Respect for the environment, the generation of employment and income, the fostering of a better quality of life for the population and providing returns to shareholders, following the principles of sustainability, are some of the project's commitments.”
We do not have the slightest doubt that the company is seriously committed to “providing returns to shareholders.” However, their commitment regarding “Respect for the environment, the generation of employment and income, the fostering of a better quality of life for the population” has been shown, under all lights, to be false.
In fact regarding the environment, this company has been found guilty of destroying areas of native Atlantic forest with chains, tractors and large-scale fires (see WRM Bulletin Nº 102). That is, their responsibility as to environmental conservation comes under questioning.
Regarding the generation of jobs, it has been amply demonstrated that eucalyptus plantations are the worst option possible. In the cases of Aracruz and Veracel this has been documented in a recent research available at http://www.wrm.org.uy/countries/Brazil/fase.html
Regarding social issues, “the fostering of a better quality of life for the population” is obviously not in line with the appropriation of land belonging to indigenous peoples. However, the fact is that the company continues to invade the traditional territories of the Pataxo indigenous people, as affirmed by the indigenous people themselves in the Final Document of the Fourth Assembly of the Pataxo Front for Resistance and Struggle, held in August 2005. There, the Pataxo people stated that “This company [Veracel] is damaging our environment, co-opting our leaders with the promise of distributing benefits with the clear objective of dividing us and continuing with the invasion of our territory.” Co-opting leaders as a mechanism for division is antagonistic with the statement – also taken from Veracel’s web page that it “bases its relationships on transparency and ethics”.
Going even further, this year in the Final Document of the Fifth Assembly of the Pataxo Front for Resistance and Struggle, the indigenous peoples and organizations supporting them, demanded the “End of eucalyptus plantations on our lands under the domination of Veracel Celulose, which continues to cause damage to our environment.”
That is to say, this company which affirms that it is committed to principles of sustainability continues to retain in its power lands belonging to the Pataxo people and to plant them with eucalyptus trees and is being accused of continued aggression to the environment. Perhaps the word “sustainability” should be redefined to adapt it to Veracel’s practices as, in its most accepted meaning, the use they are making of it is clearly a deception.
Article based on the Final Document of the Fifth Assembly of the Pataxo Front for Resistance and Struggle and on Veracel’s web-page: http://www.veracel.com.br/en/