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British retailers lead the pack in sustainable soy use – but others don’t talk about this hidden ingredient


UK retailers M&S and Waitrose have been named as front-runners in responsible soy use. The firms are among 16 European leaders in soy sustainability listed in WWF’s Soy Scorecard, released in advance of the 11th annual conference of the Round Table on Responsible Soy (RTRS) which takes place in Brazil this week.

But many other companies do not acknowledge their use of soy and have done little to address the devastating impact that irresponsible soy production can have on people and nature in vulnerable landscapes like the Amazon, the Cerrado, the Atlantic Forest and the Chaco. UK firms including Iceland, catering giant Brakes, and 2 Sisters food group which owns Goodfella’s pizzas failed to respond to the survey.

The Soy Scorecard assesses 133 leading European retailers, food service companies, consumer goods manufacturers, dairy companies, meat, egg and feed companies. Criteria measured included transparency on total soy use, use of responsibly produced soy and efforts to remove deforestation from soy supply chains. The companies are based in Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, the Netherlands, Poland, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK. Overall, Dutch and Swedish firms performed most strongly against the criteria.

Dr Emma Keller, Agricultural Commodities Manager, WWF-UK said:

“Because of its widespread use as an animal feed, soy is a hidden ingredient in products including meat, farmed fish, dairy products like milk and cheese, and eggs – but rampant expansion of soy and poor farming practices are threatening vast areas of valuable forest and savannahs which are home to important and rare species like the jaguar, the giant armadillo and the giant anteater.

“We want consumers to be able to make informed choices about the impact of the food they buy. The Soy Scorecard helps show which supermarkets and brands are taking this issue seriously those who aren’t. Many retailers are leading the way, but it’s time to see the food service and animal feed sectors step up, as they are missing a trick in a world that now demands ethical behaviour and transparency from companies.”

Over recent decades, soy has undergone some of the greatest expansion of any global crop. Its production threatens the habitat of many vulnerable species in South America including the jaguar, maned wolf and giant anteater. According to a recent study by Agrosatélite [i] between 2000 and 2014, 2.93 million hectares of land were converted from natural vegetation in order to grow annual crops – mostly soy – in the Cerrado.

More than half of Brazilian soy comes from the Cerrado, where the area of planted soy increased by 108% from 2000 to 2014. The Cerrado holds 5% of the world’s biodiversity and is one of South America’s most important water sources. The Cerrado still has another 15 million hectares of land covered with natural vegetation that is suitable for soy, and therefore under threat of soy expansion.

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 per cent[ii] 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 join forces with others to stop deforestation and conversion of natural habitats in soy supply chains.

WWF’s Sandra Mulder, Senior Advisor Market Change said:

“WWF is pleased to see some real frontrunners especially in the retail and dairy sectors. 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 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 this has on the ecosystems of South America.”

WWF is urging EU consumers to tweet companies on the Scorecard to ask them to take urgent action to remove irresponsible soy from their products.

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