Leading players in the soy value chain have rallied behind the call to increase the European market share for responsibly cultivated soy that does not cause harm to nature or workers. At its 10th conference on May 20 in Brussels, Belgium, the Round Table on Responsible Soy (RTRS) also launched its Guides to preserve valuable natural ecosystems from deforestation.
A broad range of stakeholders at the RT10 Brussels conference – producers from South America, India, Canada and the United States, traders, buyers, and NGO representatives – all expressed support to the RTRS target: to get ten million tonnes of responsible soy on the market by 2017, up from 1.3 million tonnes now.
Mapping valuable ecosystems
During the Brussels conference, RTRS launched an on-line mapping system that allows to identify High Conservation Value Areas in regions where soy cannot be produced. The project has been rolled out for Paraguay and Brazil and will be pursued for Argentina. These Guides for Responsible Expansion of Soy help to pre-assess the risk for the ecosystems in various areas, thus avoiding any negative impact of the expansion of cultivation.
Several NGOs at the conference, such as the World Wildlife Fund and Greenpeace but also NGOs from Latin America, stressed the importance of RTRS as a key instrument to monitor the agricultural frontier. But more needs to be done, they said.
Agustín Mascotena, Executive Director of RTRS, echoed the call: "To ensure that forests are safe from uncontrolled soy expansion, we need to work on the ground, but we must also involve other partners in the soy chain. Companies are a prime driver to ensure that soy can reach the markets without endangering our environment. These objectives can only be achieved through closer collaboration between players from various sectors."
Push supply and demand of responsible soy
This meeting showed that there is broad support from all participants for zero deforestation and an increased market share for responsible soy, said RTRS President Olaf Brugman. "Now we must turn this commitment into action. Only if we act together can we push forward the supply and demand of responsible soy on the market and eliminate deforestation from the soy chain."
Unilever and Royal Ahold launch call for action
This challenge was taken up by two global companies, producer Unilever and retailer Royal Ahold, who launched a call for action to support responsible soy chains on behalf of the Consumer Goods Forum (CGF), a platform of manufacturers and retailers that strive for positive change in the sector. The two firms named RTRS as one of the most credible ways to obtain certified responsible soy and to achieve zero net deforestation.
Specify sustainable soy
"As soy is a hidden ingredient, its traceability is difficult or even impossible to achieve", said Hugo Byrnes, Vice President Product Integrity of Royal Ahold and member of the Retailers' Soy Group. "Therefore, transformation can only be achieved when manufacturers and retailers all specify sustainable soy. Only then can we achieve the critical mass necessary to let certified soy enter Europe in particular and be used as feed."
Need to safeguard forests
Sheila Redzepi, Unilever's Vice President for Global Advocacy and Sustainability Strategy, stressed the need to safeguard forests. "We're making progress, but to achieve our de-forestation and sustainable agriculture commitments at scale, we need to go beyond what we can achieve in our own operations. We are actively advocating as the Consumer Goods Forum, for soy end-users to come together. At Unilever, for example, we are making our soy sourcing in Brazil very transparent, inviting Consumer Goods Forum members and soy meal users to join us and the farmers who are supplying us with RTRS certified soy. This is how we will achieve the scale that is needed."