Meet Meat, Matereality Style

Assessing a global meat company in an economy serving life

B. Lorraine Smith

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Above is a close-up from the interactive business model graphic on slide 12 of the JBS Matereality assessment. This article summarizes key findings from the assessment.

Continuing the journey towards an economy working in service of life, I recently rounded the corner on the Matereality assessment of JBS, one of the world’s largest food companies. Purveyors of diversified animal and plant proteins, leather, biodiesel, and more, JBS have outsized influence on life as we know it. They also make significant claims about their positive impacts.

It seemed like a good opportunity for a Matereality check.

In this piece I summarize three key findings, detailed in the 80-slide assessment deck, for those who may not have time to read the details. I also include information about stakeholder input (*) and more context on Matereality (**) at the end of this article.

To ground us in first principles: Matereality compares a company’s stated purpose with its revenue generation, and then assesses if/how the business operates in service of life. To conduct this assessment, I engaged in dialogue with diverse stakeholders and I examined the company’s own public disclosures.

Following are ideas about how JBS can participate in an economy in service of life. I offer this — open source — in the spirit of industrial healing.

Three key themes:

1. JBS’s current business model perpetuates harm to people and planet.

The relentless focus on profit-maximizing (vs life-affirming) efficiencies privatizes financial gains while externalizing costs to society and the biosphere.

2. ESG statements are on trend, yet unlikely to have real impact.

Disclosures hit a range of topical environmental, social, and governance (ESG) buzzwords such as “Net Zero” and “circular economy” while showing no real improvement in biodiversity or other net-positive practices.

3. Disclosures are convoluted, contradictory, and incomplete.

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B. Lorraine Smith

Former sustainability consultant replacing ESG with reality-based insights about corporate purpose and impact. https://www.blorrainesmith.com/