Beef 2024 Preview

Australian-focused definition of deforestation to be launched at Beef 2024

James Nason, 27/03/2024

CATTLE Australia says it hopes to have a definition of deforestation across the supply chain in the Australian context ready for launch at Beef 2024.

It comes amid a ramping up of sustainability reporting requirements across global suply chains, of which Rabobank economist and senior analyst Angus Gidley-Baird provided a comprehensive and confronting summary at the NTCA annual conference in Alice Springs last week (more detail below).

Deforestation definition

Cattle Australia committed to creating national land management and biodiversity standards for beef production in December (link to earlier story here) following a meeting of more than 50 industry leaders from across the supply chain in Rockhampton.

At the time Cattle Australia CEO, Dr Chris Parker, said the sector recognised it needed to be part of the solution in providing a clear, evidence-based definition of deforestation and biodiversity the reflects the uniqueness of the Australian landscape.

“It’s just not feasible to compare Australia’s land management practices for beef production with other jurisdictions, so we need to develop fit-for-purpose, regionally specific indicators for global reporting that recognise our inherent ecological differences.”

Speaking at the NTCA conference last Friday, Dr Parker said the process to date has built on the meeting in Rockhampton and engagement with supply chain members and the employment of a consultant to finalise the Australia-industry specific definition.

He said the definition is be developed for use across the entire Australian supply chain, spanning not just producers, saleyards, feedlots and processors but also retailers, supermarkets and banks.

Having the same approach across the entire supply chain was key, Dr Parker said.

Non-financial disclosure requirements ramping up

The same conference was also given a comprehensive rundown of the various ways in which pressure to provide more quantifiable, objective reporting on sustainability progress is increasing across global supply chains.

“Sustainability has been a topic for us for at least the last five years, but in the last couple of months in particular there is quite a major internal process at the moment that is going on that is sucking up a lot of my time and a lot of it centres around this non-financial disclosure space,” Rabobank economist and senior analyst Angus Gidley-Baird said.

“The information that is being asked of operators and supply chains and then how they can actually report on that is becoming very, very important.”

Non-financial disclosures are a form of transparency reporting in which businesses formally disclose certain information not related to their finances.

It is also referred to as sustainability, or ESG (Environment, Social and Governance) reporting.

Several examples of guidelines and metrics already in place or being developed across Government, industry and the supply chain included:

  • The Australian Government has signed up to the Global Methane Pledge (which aims to reduce emissions by at least 30pc from 2020 levels by 2030), the Paris Agreement (with a goal to limit global average temperature increases to below 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels), and the Global Biodiversity Framework which sets 23 targets for 2030and a further four goals for 2050.
  • The red meat industry has committed to achieving a goal of carbon neutrality by 2030 or CN30, which means Australia’s red meat and livestock industry will make no net release of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions into the atmosphere by 2030.
  • The Red Meat Advisory Council appointed Sustainable Steering Group puts out an  Australian Beef Sustainability Framework annual report with updates on key indicators and metrics reflecting the industry’s progress towards achieving sustainability goals.
  • The Australian Government has also supported the Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD), which has developed a set of disclosure recommendations and guidance designed to support a shift in global financial flows away from nature-negative outcomes and toward nature-positive outcomes.

Financial institutions are increasingly being seen as a conduit or catalyst to align financial flows with sustainability outcomes, given the influence they are seen to have on other operators in the value chain.

“The Australian Government is seeing the role of financial institutions in terms of reporting and collecting this information to demonstrate progress and the impacts from a nature and sustainability point of view,” Mr Gidley Baird said.

“At the same time banks are not excused from NGO activity and scrutiny either.”

Climage group succeeding through legal action

In one recent example, climate group Friends of the Earth has initiated legal action against ING, which it labelled the “banker of the climate crisis”, seeking to force it cuts its emissions in half by 2030 compared to 2019 levels.

The lawsuit comes despite ING having laid out plans  in December last year to phase out its financing of oil and gas development projects by 2040.

Friends of the Earth previously won a landmark climate court case against Shell in 2021, which resulted in a European court ordering the fuel giant to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 45 percent by the end of 2030.

A little closer to home, last September the Australian Conservation Foundation commissioned research by Ernst and Young which claimed that $260 billion of all outstanding bank loans, or 22pc of bank lending, is to sectors that carry a “high risk of impacting nature”.

The report went further and singled out livestock agriculture, which holds $47bn of outstanding loans from leading Australian banks, as “the subsector responsible for the biggest impact on nature” and recommended that banks “adopt no-deforestation policies” in lending criteria.

Mr Gidley-Baird said it was important to be aware of the pressures being generated on various members of its supply chain.

“We have got on one hand the Governments with their regulatory tools, we’ve got companies making commitments and reporting, and we’ve got industry setting targets and making commitments and starting to report.

“On the other hand we have got the investors, we’ve got the shareholders, we’ve got the NGOs and we’ve got the general public looking for some sort of certainty or demonstration of progress in that space, and some sort or certification or reassurance that the information is genuine.”

Objective, quantifiable measures now being sought

A lot more work was now being seen in the non-financial reporting space focused on demonstrating progress toward targets in a way that ensures there is confidence in the system and avoids claims about greenwashing.

“The level of activity we have seen in the last two years is only ramping up and getting faster,” he said.

In January last year in Europe, the EU Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) entered into force, which requires large companies and listed companies to publish regular reports on the social and environmental risks they face, and on how their activities impact people and the environment.

In June last the Australian Treasured announced its proposal to implement mandatory climate-related financial disclosures to require large companies report on their climate, environmental and sustainability related progress. It is yet to go before parliament but, if passed in coming months in its current form, it will require companies with over $500m in consolidated revenue each year to mandatorily report on climate impacts from July this year, and companies with revenue of more than $50m per year from July 2027.

Larger companies will seek reporting from smaller supply chain partners

While most individual cattle producers will not be directly affected, many of their downstream partners in the value chain would be required to undertake mandatory reporting of scope 1, scope 2 and scope 3 emissions.

Scope 1 emissions are direct emissions deemed to be totally within your control, Scope 2 are emissions generated from the energy you are utilising in your operations, and Scope 3 are the emissions created by those in the supply chain that you don’t have a control over.

“So for most of you in the room as producers, your scope 1 emissions that are generated out of your operations are the Scope 3 emissions for the retailer or for the processor or for the financial institution out there.”

He said that as part of the value chain, producers are going to start to see an increasing amount of interest from other operators in the value chain about how they can collect information to be able to demonstrate they are meeting their commitments or to demonstrate their impact from an environmental or a sustainability point of view.

CN30 target “a stake in the sand”

Mr Gidley Baird said the CN30 goal had put a stake in the sand that had given a lot of operators in the supply chain the confidence to know that the industry is progressing towards something.

“I think the opportunity lies here in looking through, and it is unfortunately one of those mundane processes, we’re trying to figure out what the metrics are, what the best way of measuring it is, because the ability to influence and create a positive outcome is there.

“The problem is if you don’t do it, someone else is going to decide.”

He said industry had a great opportunity to try and lead some of the conversation in this space.

The non-financial disclosures guidelines released last year stated that “the close coupling of nature and agriculture not only means the agricultural sector is a driver of negative ecosystem impacts, but it also holds the key to the transition to nature positive outcomes”.

“As landholder you are one of the most important operators in this whole system,” Mr Gidley-Baird said.

“You can potentially have a big role to play in this.

“And while a lot of it might seem that the first part of that sentence is coming at us in a negative way, the opportunity to actually participate in a positive way exists as well.

He said the industry faces a challenge in how to participate in the conversation to achieve a positive outcome.

“Because I daresay if you don’t participate in this process there are enough commitments and enough things going on that are going to come at you in some form or another.”




Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Your comment will not appear until it has been moderated.
Contributions that contravene our Comments Policy will not be published.


  1. Stanley Bruce Collins, 28/03/2024

    Sounds like the horse has bolted because you cannot post environmental changes that have occurred over the last fifty years when you do not have a starting point measurement. However, I can say as a matter of fact that native vegetation has been thickening dramatically over that period due to the relative absence of fire in the ecosystem. A severe fire every twenty or thirty years is a totally different animal to a cool burn every two or three years. When I was growing up on a NQ cattle station, that is what we had – cool burns.

  2. Mal peters, 28/03/2024

    Cattle Australia will need to be careful it represents all cattle farmers not just very big northern farmers.
    Some areas need control of regrowth and if the cattle Australia model excludes that many cattle producers will be pissed off.

    • David Hill, 28/03/2024

      Mal, as someone that was one of the organisers of the original event in Rockhampton I can assure you the ability to control regrowth was one of the drivers of the event. My family has a small beef cattle business in central Queensland, more than half our property is remnant forest country(koala, greater glider habitat) which we currently can’t include in our Carbon account, because a federal coalition government took the value of those trees to meet the country’s Kyoto commitments. The other thing about the Australia clause is that it allowed emissions intensive industries to actually increase emissions by over 20% during the period of the Kyoto agreement, pwhilst landholders received no compensation and now can’t even get recognition at an individual level.
      The remaining less than 50% of our property is a mix of previously cleared or treated Brigalow, softwood or forest country. It was originally cleared to the extent that would allow my parents to meet the requirements of the Brigalow area 3 scheme. The ongoing management of regrowth to maintain productivity has been a mix panic due to threat of regulation change, when it can be afforded to one where we try to maintain a balance of trees and grass, this is obviously not the cheapest option. We need some certainty around land tenure as well as the recognition that pastures and ruminate animals play an important part in sustainable food production as a means of dealing with the ever increasing level of food insecurity globally(short form of a complex story)
      Mal, we are dealing with a complex situation here, the diversity of regional ecosystems in this country doesn’t allow for any creditable one size fits all outcome. This is about sustainable land management, the challenges are often unique. Personally it is about my family’s ability to continue to manage regrowth, without that our business will become unviable quickly. Extensive northern operations have other unique challenges, vegetation thickening and encroachment is becoming an issue in a lot of areas. We need to make sure we get this right, this year will be the 12 year anniversary of a seminar I attended at Beef Week where I first heard about deforestation. I walked out of there thinking I didn’t have anything to worry about because we hadn’t been allowed to clear remnant vegetation for the purposes of beef production in over 10 years, I have for more years than I care to remember been reminding myself that I was off with the fairies at that time. We need to stick together and remember that when we look around we have a positive story to tell and don’t have rely on lies to get an emotive response out of those that have no idea about what we do.
      In finishing I would suggest you have a look at an Oxfam paper that was published several years ago that mentions the greatest threat to food security for the predicted 9 billion people on earth by 2050 could be reforestation!!!

  3. William Wilson, 27/03/2024

    Nice work CA thank goodness. Nothing worse as a producer that cares about consumer feelings than not knowing or understanding expectations.

  4. Paul Franks, 27/03/2024

    Seems to me there is a lot of urban based wealthy (or underlings wanting to please the wealthy) people in a world wide social group all trying to outwoke each other. They are climbing their social ladder by showing other members of their social group how they are forcing their beliefs onto others. Meanwhile you can be sure their lifestyle and income stream in unaffected, if anything it is enhanced. They go on about sustainability, but funnily enough the australian beef industry was around before their social group ever existed and will be around when their social group is gone. You can not get more sustainable then that.

    I somehow really doubt the average shopper buying Australian Beef in Indonesia, or Vietnam or China is very concerned about australian producers emissions.

    When Australian people were locked in their homes during the recent covid event, when there ended up a mince shortage, were emissions at the forefront of their minds?

    Why is it the producers in Australia allow a minority group to control them? You do not see that happen in the USA.

Get Beef Central's news headlines emailed to you -