Coca-Cola the latest global brand to ‘Adopt a Park’ in Brazil rainforest

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Workers walk past a Coca Cola logo painted on a gate at a Coca Cola factory in Nairobi

By Jake Spring

BRASILIA (Reuters) – Coca-Cola Co on Wednesday agreed to sponsor a protected reserve in the Amazon rainforest, joining beer maker Heineken and a growing list of global corporations signing up to the Brazilian government’s “Adopt a Park” program.

Environmentalists say that the program, launched by the right-wing government of President Jair Bolsonaro this year, amounts to “greenwashing,” or a cosmetic move aimed improving the government’s image, at a time when deforestation is soaring.

Acting via its Brazilian subsidiary, Coca-Cola is the eighth company to join the program by adopting the Javari-Buriti Area of Relevant Ecological Interest for 658,850 reais ($122,109) for a period of one year.

The park occupies 132 square kilometers in the remote western portion of Brazil’s Amazonas state and includes one of the densest formations of Buriti palm forest in the world.

Heineken earlier this month pledged 466,900 reais to sponsor a 93 square kilometer Amazon reserve that is home to a traditional community of escaped slaves in Maranhao state.

More than 11,000 square kilometers were deforested in Brazil’s Amazon in the 12-months though July 2020, an area 14 times the size of New York City, according to the latest annual data available from government space research agency Inpe.

Environmentalists blame the surge on Bolsonaro, who has weakened environmental enforcement agencies and called for more development in protected areas. Adopt a Park is only an attempt to improve the government’s image, they say.

“The government should reverse the environmental dismantling … instead of this program which opens up a huge space for greenwashing and doesn’t solve the problem,” said Cristiane Mazzetti, a conservationist with advocacy group Greenpeace Brasil, in a statement.

The Environment Ministry and parks service ICMBio did not respond to requests for comment on that criticism. The ministry said the funds would pay for infrastructure improvements and environmental conservation, without giving further details.

Coca-Cola Brasil said adopting the park is part of its long track record of conservation in the Amazon, without responding to questions about greenwashing.

Heineken did not immediately respond to request for comment.

($1 = 5.3956 reais)

(Reporting by Jake Spring; Additional reporting by Lisandra Paraguassu; Editing by Alistair Bell)

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