Soy purchasers need to support responsible trends in production – WWF

Media Release

Beijing, May 28 — While a few leading companies have taken steps to purchase soy that has been produced responsibly, too many continue to take little or no action to ensure the soy products they buy are not harming people or nature says WWF.

WWF is looking to companies in the soy supply chain to up their level of commitment to environmental and social sustainability as the Round Table on Responsible Soy (RTRS) commences its eighth annual conference (RT8) in Beijing, China today.

“What we need to keep in our mind is that halfway around the world, forests and savannahs such as the Amazon, Cerrado and Chaco continue to be threatened by soy expansion,” said WWF Soy Lead Cassio Moreira. “While we need more commitment all round, the evidence is that the concept of responsible soy is currently being more embraced by producers than large scale purchasers and this is the leading issue that we need to consider when soy stakeholders come together this week.”

In 2012,1 million tonnes of soy were produced according to RTRS standards – but only around 40% of that was purchased by buyers from a limited number of countries. Of the certified soy produced in Brazil, only 26% was purchased. A similar demand situation prevails for soy with other sustainability labelling.

“This is just a drop in the bucket of an industry that produces 240 million tonnes per year, 80% of which is used for animal feed,” said Moreira.

“Furthermore, many companies have not even started committing themselves. Only few have become members of RTRS and even less have set responsible purchasing policies to include responsible soy in the feed for the meat, fish and dairy products they sell to their buyers and consumers. Consumers cannot be confident that the meat, fish, eggs or dairy they are eating or drinking is not based on soy feed that is grown on land where nature was recently destroyed.”

WWF asks all companies buying soy and animal products (as soy is mostly embedded in meat products as it is an important ingredient of animal feed), to become members of RTRS and make public commitments that they will use 100 percent certified responsible soy by 2015; to make public their plans with deadlines to achieve this goal; and to begin purchasing certified soy immediately.

In a bid to speed up the “sluggish performance” of soy buyers, WWF will assess the world’s major users of soy and publicly highlight whether or not companies have supported responsible soy by becoming members of RTRS, setting responsible purchasing policies and fulfilling their commitments to purchase it.

Since the RTRS certification scheme was established in 2010, 30 soy producers and producer associations (representing over 16,000 small farmers) have certified soy farms according to the environmental and social standards developed by the RTRS.  1,4 million tonnes of responsibly produced soybeans have been put on market through the end of 2012, of which just over 800,000 tonnes  of responsible soy have been sold.

WWF acknowledges the positive steps of the producers who have shown leadership in providing responsible soy, and of some leading companies which have already purchased certified soy. These include an initiative of the Dutch industry, encompassing companies in the feed industry and leading brands and retailers such as Ahold, Friesland Campina, and VION.

Forward thinking companies from other countries like Lantmannen (Sweden), Raisio (Finland), Waitrose (UK) and Unilever Brazil have also started buying RTRS certified soy certificates.  The global airline company KLM Royal Dutch Airlines has just announced membership to the RTRS and has already purchased responsible soy for poultry used in their catering business. But many other companies and other countries need to follow suit.

Meanwhile, a handful of other companies have started taking steps by becoming members of the RTRS, making commitments to responsible soy, collaborating on national commitments and/or funding projects to support the production of responsible soy in the field. WWF welcomes such steps but asks companies to speed up their progress and show concrete results by purchasing responsible soy.

“As developing countries and emerging markets continue to grow, the demand for soy will continue to rise” said Moreira.  “It is no longer viable for companies to sit on their hands and do nothing while some of the world’s most valuable forests, grasslands and savannahs disappear.  In order to ensure a long term sustainable supply of soy that does not harm people or nature or contribute to climate change, leading consumer goods manufacturers, retailers, food service providers and feed companies need to start buying responsible soy now.”

WWF helped set up the RTRS as an international multi-stakeholder body to develop standards that are capable of driving sustainability for the industry generally.  Available since early 2011, RTRS soy provides assurance that valuable habitats have not been cleared and that environmental and social safeguards have been met during production.

In accordance with the RTRS commitment to continuous improvement, the organization is currently developing a mapping system to better direct soy expansion away from sensitive areas, working to diminish the use of hazardous agrochemicals within the industry and will undergo a planned upgrade of the standard in 2015. Meanwhile, WWF has supported the establishment of a system within the RTRS enabling companies to purchase non-GM RTRS soy.

“Consumers do not know that most soy is used to feed chickens, pigs, cows and farmed fish but awareness is growing,” said Moreira, “By purchasing responsible soy for their products, retailers, brands and feed companies can assure their customers that the soy in their products is helping to curb deforestation and habitat loss in South America as well as supporting farmers both large and small all over the world to operate in a more environmentally and socially friendly way.”

The WWF evaluation of soy buyers will help consumers evaluate the performance of these companies and encourage the companies themselves to better support the transformation of the soy industry to one that is more responsible.

Contact:

Carrie Svingen (csvingen@wwf.panda.org or +49 151 188 54 833)

 About WWF

WWF is one of the world’s largest and most respected independent conservation organizations, with over 5 million supporters and a global network active in over 100 countries.  WWF’s mission is to stop the degradation of the earth’s natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature, by conserving the world’s biological diversity, ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable, and promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption.

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