Cargill in deforestation pledge as part of UN summit

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Media captionThe BBC's Michelle Fleury speaks to Dave MacLennan, chief executive of Cargill about his climate change pledge.

Cargill has made one of the broadest commitments to environmental protection ever by a large agricultural company.

The company says it wants to root out deforestation in all of its agricultural supply chains.

Speaking to the BBC, Cargill's chief executive Dave MacLennan said that he wanted Cargill to be a leader in tackling deforestation and climate change.

Cargill is the US's largest private company in terms of revenue.

The company's pledge is one of dozens made by corporations at the United Nations climate summit in New York.

On Tuesday, 40 companies announced their commitment to halve tropical deforestation by 2020 and end it completely by 2030. They were joined by dozens of governments, NGOs and indigenous peoples.

Earlier in the week, heirs to the Rockefeller family, whose vast fortune came from oil, said they would sell investments in fossil fuels and reinvest those funds in clean energy

'Too big to ignore'

The pledge represents an extension of Cargill's already stated commitment to address deforestation in its palm oil and soy supplies chains.

Activists had previously lobbied the company to change its practices, particularly focusing on the firm's palm oil production.

"For us, it's a momentous time in our long history to say we're not just going to be part of the pack; we want to be out in front,'" Mr MacLennan told the BBC.

"Economic growth and economic success is not incompatible with doing something about climate change," he added.

Echoing the comments of many other business leaders gathered this week at the UN, he said that he saw taking actions to address climate change as essential, not optional.

"It's too big to ignore," he said.

However, Mr MacLennan cautioned that addressing climate change is a responsibility that can not be shouldered by the private sector alone.

"It's got to be in collaboration with other constituencies, with other stakeholders: NGOs, indigenous peoples, civil society and government," he said.

"If you have weakness or lack of commitment in any of those components of the stakeholder group, it's not going to work."

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