The 2016 edition of WWF's Soy Scorecard, released in advance of the 11th annual conference of the Round Table on Responsible Soy (RTRS) taking place in Brazil this week, identified 16 companies as the European leaders in soy sustainability initiatives. Criteria measured included transparency on total soy use, use of responsibly produced soy and efforts to remove deforestation and conversion of other natural habitats from soy supply chains.
"WWF is pleased to see some real frontrunners especially in the retail and dairy sectors, buying most of their soy from RTRS or ProTerra certified producers, " said WWF's Sandra Mulder, Senior Advisor Market Change, "but it is clear that many companies take advantage of the lack of consumer awareness about soy in order to do nothing on this issue. 69 companies decided not to respond to our call for transparency -- this is more than half of the 133 companies approached by WWF.
"Many Europeans still don't know that they eat on average 61 kilos of soy per year, mostly embedded in their meat and dairy products, and what impact irresponsible soy production can have on the ecosystems of South America. In most cases, consumers have no proof that the products they eat do not include deforestation".
The Soy Scorecard assesses 133 leading European retailers, food service companies, consumer goods manufacturers, dairy companies, meat, egg and feed companies on actions related to sourcing responsible soy and eliminating deforestation from the animal products they sell. The companies are based in Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, the Netherlands, Poland, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK.
While applauding the leading companies, WWF finds it unacceptable that so many other companies in Europe do not acknowledge their responsibility for their use of soy and the impact it can have on nature, species and people in vulnerable and valuable landscapes like the Amazon, the Cerrado, the Atlantic Forest and the Chaco.
Over recent decades, soy has undergone some of the greatest expansion of any global crop. In total, the area of land in South America devoted to soy grew from 17 million hectares in 1990 to 46 million hectares in 2010, mainly on land converted from natural ecosystems. According to a recent study by Agrosatélite, between 2000 and 2014, 2.93 million hectares of land in the Brazilian Cerrado were converted from natural vegetation in order to grow annual crops – mostly soy.
In the meantime, relevant efforts were made by joint initiatives of soy producers and traders to reduce this impact.
The Soy Moratorium reduced the deforestation caused by soy in the Amazon to almost zero during the last decade, while Amazonian soy production doubled in the same period, on already deforested areas. Soy nevertheless still threatens the habitat of many vulnerable species, such as the jaguar, maned wolf and giant anteater, in other ecosystems such as Cerrado and Chaco.
More than half of Brazilian soy comes from the Cerrado, which holds 5% of the world's biodiversity and is one of South America's most important water sources. Halting the conversion of all natural habitats is crucial and possible; the above study demonstrated that as much as 25 million hectares of already developed and highly suitable land are available in the Cerrado only, equivalent to 6 times the area of the Netherlands, indicating that it is possible to more than double soy production in Brazil without any new conversion.
WWF praises the strong efforts and commitments already done by the sector towards more responsible, deforestation-free soy production. The Amazon Soy Moratorium has been permanently extended, and leading individual producer and companies are investing heavily in responsible production and certification", said Edegar de Oliveira Rosa, head of the WWF-Brazil's Agriculture and Environment Programme. "It is now crucial and fair that the world market, including European soy buyers, recognises and rewards these efforts, to insure continuity and extension of these efforts to the whole soy supply chain and guarantee responsible soy production, together with the protection of the world´s richest ecosystems for future generations."
Increasing meat consumption is the main driver of soy expansion. Around 75% of the world's soy goes into animal feed. In Europe this proportion is even higher - an estimated at 93% of the soy going into Europe is for animal feed.
WWF calls on all companies in the soy supply chain to be transparent about their use of soy, source responsible soy that is produced by RTRS and ProTerra (currently the only two credible schemes for responsible soy), and to commit and join forces with others to stop deforestation and conversion of all natural habitats in soy supply chains.
WWF urges EU consumers to tweet companies in the Scorecard to ask them to take urgent action to remove irresponsible soy from their products. WWF also urges consumption of animal protein in line with national health guidelines.
For more information, please contact Carrie Svingen
+49 151 188 54 833