An industry-led coalition of the major UK companies and industry associations in the soya value chain, the UK Sustainable Soya Initiative aims to accelerate the shift towards sustainable sourcing in the UK by creating incentives for sustainable production.
In 2017, major UK retailers, brands and industry associations across the soya supply chain called for government support in convening the soya industry to address growing concerns about soya production and its link to tropical deforestation and conversion of native vegetation.
At the same time, the UK government seeks to engage soya-producing countries to build long term business and trade opportunities in sustainable commodities through bilateral partnerships and international climate finance.
A key delivery mechanism of the Soya Initiative is the UK Roundtable on Sustainable Soya which was launched in mid-2018. It brings together significant players in the UK soya market, creating a pre-competitive space for companies and industry associations to work together to achieve a secure, resilient, sustainable supply of soya to the UK, with joint progress monitoring and reporting.
At the launch, members representing the key buyers of UK-consumed soya created and committed to a shared Goal: to purchase soya that is legal and cultivated in a way that protects against conversion of forests and valuable native vegetation. Signatories agreed to publish timebound plans by April 2019 and demonstrate meaningful progress towards the Goal by 2020.
P4F supports Efeca, a consultancy specialised in sustainable commodities, to provide technical support, facilitation and coordination to both Roundtable members and UK government to convert this Goal into practical actions that create the right market incentives for sustainable production.
Through both formal and informal meetings, the Initiative is engaging with fellow European demand-side countries, producer organisations and initiatives in South America and soya groups in China and the US to share lessons and ensure alignment. In September 2019, the Danish Alliance for Responsible Soy launched a first-of-its-kind initiative in Denmark, which adopted the UK Soya Initiative goal, demonstrating the influence and reach of the UK Initiative.
As of June 2019, eight of the largest UK supermarkets (with a combined retail market share of 83%) have published their action plans to deliver sustainable soya to the UK market. These retailer commitments represent over 1.2 m imported tonnes, equivalent to 400,000 hectares of production area – which is roughly 2.5 times the size of London. If the entire UK market follows suit, the estimated sustainable land use footprint would rise to around 1.2 m hectares and the entire UK soya supply chain would be deforestation-free.
In November 2019 the latest annual progress report for the UK Soya Initiative estimated that 27% of the total UK imported soya is covered by deforestation and conversion-free standards (trader standards, RTRS or Proterra). This represents a 12% increase since the creation of the Soya Initiative and is predicted to rise as members develop and source in line with their sustainable soya policies.
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This case study documents the significant progress made by the UK Sustainable Soya Initiative in driing corporate and public policy changes in the UK and in other consumer countries.