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The soy story: who is taking responsible action?


It’s finally BBQ season and we’ve been promised a BBQ summer, bring it on! But could your BBQ burger, chicken fillet or cheese slice be linked to deforestation and loss of vulnerable species in South America, all because of soy? Chances are, it could be…..but it doesn’t have to be this way and we can all play our part in making sure this doesn’t happen. Read on to find out more…

Could your BBQ food be linked to deforestation? © istockphoto.com / vgajicThe soy story: Could your BBQ food be linked to deforestation? © istockphoto.com / vgajic

The soy story

Soy is a highly efficient and high protein crop that is an important source of protein for much of the world’s population. While we can (and do) eat soy directly, every year three quarters of the soy produced, that’s millions of tonnes of soybeans, are fed to animals that are reared for meat and dairy products. This means that a huge proportion of the soy we eat is ‘embedded’ within much of the meat, dairy and eggs that we consume. In fact the average European eats about 61kg of soy in this way. With global consumption of animal products growing rapidly, the demand for soy is growing too and vast areas of Amazon rainforest, valuable habitats like the Cerrado (tropical savannah), the Chaco and Atlantic Forest are being cleared to make way for soy plantations.

Irresponsible production of soy is now one of the world’s most serious environmental challenges. But there is a way forward and soy buying companies play a key role.

The soy story: Soy fields in areas where forests once were ©The soy story: Soy fields in areas where forests once were ©

What is the WWF Soy Scorecard?

This week we have launched the second WWF Soy Scorecard which assesses and scores 133 of Europe’s largest soy using companies based on their use of responsible soy for animal feed or animal products. These are companies and brands that can have an influence on the way that soy is produced and can play a role in ensuring that it protects irreplaceable habitats, endangered species and respects the rights of the people in South America.

We wanted to know whether these companies were taking responsibility for the products they make and in doing so allowing us, their customers, to be confident we are buying products that don’t damage the environment. So we focused our questions to companies on:

  • Whether they are buying soy that has been produced responsibly under the Roundtable on Responsible Soy (RTRS) or ProTerra certification, the two most credible means of responsible soy production.
  • Whether they have made serious commitments to reduce and ultimately eliminate deforestation and habitat conversion from their supply chains.

So who are the good guys?

Many companies are making great progress and some of the real frontrunners are in the retail and dairy sector. Several of them are making strong commitments to eliminate deforestation and are buying their soy from RTRS or ProTerra certified producers and so supporting production of responsible soy. In particular many of the Swedish and Dutch companies are showing others that a sustainable way forward is possible. This includes companies like Coop Sweden and FrieslandCampina based in the Netherlands. In the UK, Marks and Spencer and Waitrose lead the pack, and other British retailers have a long way to catch up. We applaud the efforts of these companies and urge that they continue to carve out a sustainable path for others to follow.

And the not so good?

The results show that many companies are not yet taking responsible soy seriously and so there is a lot of room for more action. Even more shockingly, over half of the companies we surveyed did not respond at all! These ‘non-respondents’ are not being transparent about their activities on soy. Many of them are avoiding responsibility for this ‘hidden’ ingredient and with the vast areas of valuable habitat we are losing to soy production, it’s not good enough. We are asking companies like Brakes, the food service giant, Iceland, Nestle and 2 Sisters Food Group (the owner of Goodfella’s pizzas) to start being transparent about their soy use and to take action.

The soy story: The journey to responsible soy for Iceland UK © WWFThe soy story: The journey to responsible soy for Iceland UK © WWF

What can you do?

Check out and share the WWF Soy Scorecard to raise awareness of this important issue and show these companies that they it’s not acceptable to hide their soy use and not take responsibility for their actions. You can also tweet companies directly to congratulate them on their progress or more importantly ask many of them to remove irresponsible soy from their products and stop trashing valuable habitats.

Use the WWF Soy Scorecard website and show your favourite retailers and brands that you take this issue seriously and they need to too!

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