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UK food industry unites to ensure all soy is deforestation and conversion free in landmark agreement

November 23, 2022

Thirty-eight leading UK food producers, representing nearly 60% of the UK’s soy consumption, and the Agricultural Industries Confederation (AIC), representing the four major importers of soy and the animal feed industry, have set out a series of comprehensive actions to deliver on the aims of the UK Soy Manifesto.

Acknowledging that mainstream transformation on this scale cannot be achieved by companies working within their individual supply chains alone, all businesses along the supply chain, from soy producers to retailers and brands, will take responsibility and act together. The announcement demonstrates the group’s commitment to collective, cross supply chain action with agreement to produce a quarterly soy deforestation risk register for UK soy imports, tracking the UK’s progress in the importation of deforestation and conversion free soy. A joint transition plan will be agreed, coordinated by a high-level cross supply chain governance group, with support of expert stakeholders to monitor and review the transition, ensuring the risk and responsibilities are shared.

A key element of the transition plan will be to ensure UK companies producing and selling meat and dairy products (using soy in animal feed) have a practical mechanism to specify that they require deforestation and conversion free soy, with robust checks and controls to assure standards are met. That’s why today’s announcement critically includes a commitment from AIC to develop a new verified deforestation and conversion free (vDCF) standard for the UK which will be independently verified

Together, these actions will ensure that Signatory companies can turn their ambitions into practical actions, supporting a mass market move to deforestation and conversion free soy use in the UK that would have been difficult to achieve even a year ago.

This package of measures provides the building blocks for this transition, recognizing the need to accelerate the pace of action to protect forests, balanced with the need to support the livelihoods of farmers in the UK and abroad and maintain strong resilient supplies of this critical raw material in challenging market conditions.

"The AIC Soy Supply Group commitment to providing quarterly data for a UK risk register is significant as the group is the sole source of data on what is shipped and sold to the UK as vDCF," said James McCulloch, Head of Feed Sector AIC. "The data helps all parties understand the progress that has been made and focusses attention and resource on areas where there is still work to be done. While market challenges are real, our industry remains committed to delivering DCF soy and sustainable supply chains.

"Around the world nature is in freefall, and unsustainable agriculture is driving its catastrophic decline. To protect precious natural habitats like the Cerrado in Brazil, we must urgently ensure soy imported to the UK is not driving the destruction of nature overseas."

Given that almost a quarter (23%) of global human-caused greenhouse gas emissions come from agriculture, forestry, and other land uses, and most of these emissions are due to deforestation this announcement is well timed as countries come together to meet in Sharm-El-Sheikh for COP27.

Many countries and companies made bold commitments last year at COP26, hosted by the UK in Glasgow. Together governments of producer and consumer countries committed to promote sustainable development and trade while protecting forests and other critical natural habitats, through the Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration on Forests and Land Use and the Forest, Agriculture and Commodity Trade Dialogue (FACT) Joint Statement and Roadmap For Action. The development of the UK Soy Manifesto, alongside today’s announcement are key, practical steps that will helps to deliver on these ambitions, consistent with a 1.5-degree pathway.

As well as the announced commitments, Signatory members are also calling for global markets to provide financial incentives and technical support to boost sustainable production. UK supermarkets Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose, for example, have invested US$11 million in the Responsible Commodities Facility (RCF), a new system of financial incentives for farmers in Brazil who commit to deforestation- and conversion-free (DCF) soy cultivation. Governments in producer and consumer countries and regions also have an important role to play. Ensuring environmental legislation that protects ecosystems are enforced at source, and that downstream companies are obligated to undertake due diligence on their use of forest risk commodities will be key.

"This announcement – the product of collective action across the supply chain, including retailers, traders and suppliers – has the potential to drive the long overdue actions the soy sector so urgently requires," added David Edwards, Director of Food Strategy at WWF. "But, to ensure it delivers for nature and climate, we urgently need to see an explicit roadmap for implementation to meet the 2025 ambition - including measurable milestones to track progress, and a clear focus on bringing the rest of the sector on board."

"We’re absolutely committed to ensuring we meet our target of sourcing soy from whole areas verified as deforestation-free by 2025, and the launch of the UK Soy Manifesto last year marked a significant milestone on that journey," suggested Ashwin Prasad, Chief Product Officer at Tesco. "We’ve made good progress this year with the introduction of the Responsible Commodities Facility, which provides direct support to soy farmers in Brazil, but we can’t solve the issue alone.

"It’s vital we bring together retailers, brands, food service companies, livestock producers and soy traders themselves to set out a clear pathway to achieving our goal of guaranteeing all soy imported into the UK is deforestation free by 2025."

The UK Soy Manifesto aligns with and builds upon similar initiatives in other markets such as the French Soy Manifesto, to show increasing demand and action plans from industry on removing all deforestation and ecosystem destruction from soy supply chains.

Following this announcement, the national soy profile is expected to become publicly available in April 2023.

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