The UK Roundtable on Sustainable Soya
In the summer of 2017 major UK companies and industry associations, from commodity traders to retailers asked for government support in convening the soya industry to address growing concerns about the link between soya and tropical deforestation and conversion of native vegetation.
Considerable efforts have been made to halt deforestation, through global-leading environmental legislation such as the Forest Code in Brazil, to the industry-led Amazon Soy Moratorium that since 2006 has dramatically reduced forest loss in the Amazon Biome.
Despite this, the expansion of soya production, alongside cattle ranching, timber and land speculation has continued to be a significant driver in the loss of native vegetation in South America, with consequent impacts on bio-diversity, carbon emissions, water systems and local communities. At a global level, it is estimated that deforestation and forest degradation represent between 10 to 20% of global anthropogenic C02 emissions.
Soya is imported into the UK directly as soya bean, meal or oil and indirectly within finished products (e.g. imported meat products from animals fed on a diet including soya). Imports have grown steadily from an estimated 2.7 million tonnes in 2011 to 3.1 million tonnes of soya bean equivalents in 2017.
In the UK, a significant number of companies have already committed to eliminating deforestation associated with soya through a range of initiatives including the Statement of Support for the Cerrado Manifesto and the Consumer Goods Forum ‘zero-net deforestation” commitment and are now seeking to accelerate the implementation of these changes and support
The UK government seeks to promote soya-producing countries to build long term business and trade opportunities in sustainable commodities through bilateral partnerships and our international climate finance. The UK government also has clear commitments to support private-sector led efforts to eliminate deforestation from agricultural commodity supply chains. These are articulated in the New York Declaration on Forests (2014), the Amsterdam Declarations towards eliminating deforestation from agricultural commodity supply chains (2015) and the 25 Year Environment Plan (2018).
Action to date
With inputs from DFID and Defra, the UK’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) convened the UK Roundtable on Sustainable Soya for the first time in March 2018. The event was launched by BEIS Minister Claire Perry alongside Marks & Spencer’s Sustainability Director and representation from WWF.
The UK Roundtable on Sustainable Soya brings together significant players in the UK soya market, providing a pre-competitive space for companies and industry associations to work together to achieve a shared goal of a secure, resilient, sustainable supply of soya to the UK, with joint progress monitoring and reporting.
Following the launch event, a small volunteer industry working group helped to develop a proposal for a Roundtable Goal, alongside arrangements for monitoring and reporting, roles and responsibilities of Roundtable members and future ways of working.
The official launch event of the UK Roundtable on Sustainable Soya was held on the 12th July at which the following Goal was agreed:
The UK Government supports Roundtable signatories’ commitment to soya that is legal and cultivated in a way that protects against conversion of forests and valuable native vegetation. This will be achieved by signatories committing to:
publish timebound plans, by April 2019, to achieve this;
meaningful and demonstrable progress towards this Goal by 2020.
Member organisations committed to working towards the Goal are listed here and regularly updated.
The key task of the Roundtable, now that the Goal has been agreed, is to support members to convert this Goal into practical action plans, with the support of Efeca, fellow RT members and a wider network of partners including NGO’s, technology providers, certification schemes and others.
To be impactful for the longer term, industry action plans will need to recognise and respond to the challenges faced by producers, drawing on the support and experience of partners and wider participants already working in South America, alongside the support of government.
Many Roundtable members are choosing certification standards to demonstrate soya is being sourced sustainably. To support members in deciding which scheme(s) best suit their needs Efeca developed a comparative briefing on six schemes identifying how each of the schemes were addressing the principles within the goal of the UK RT -soya that is legal and cultivated in a way that protects against conversion of forests and valuable native vegetation. This is not an approved list of schemes, but is intended to support members as thy develop their plans in line with the Goal.
To this end, the UK Roundtable will form the core of a wider UK Sustainable Soya Initiative, linking to and learning from existing platforms and programmes in consumer and producer countries to identify further opportunities to achieve shared goals on sustainable soy and explore the wider debates around sustainable protein production and consumption for the future.
Efeca’s team of technical experts provides advice and support to develop, implement, monitor and report on national and international policies, regulations and private sector commitments relating to the sustainable and legal sourcing of natural resources, with a focus on agricultural and forest commodities.
With experience in over 30 countries and team members and associates all over the world, we provide in-depth insight and independent support to clients across the public and private sectors, research and civil society across a wide range of commodities including palm oil, soya, timber, woodfuel, sugar, coffee, tea, cocoa and carbon.
Through the DFID/BEIS funded Partnerships for Forests programme (and previously Defra funded CPET project), Efeca provides demand side technical assistance across a range of forest commodities. Efeca’s activities include the facilitation of the UK Roundtable for Sourcing Sustainable Palm Oil and its associated annual reporting since 2012. For further information email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
For further information on the UK Roundtable on Sustainable Soya please contact