The monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV) system of their supply chains, approved by NGOs, is proving effective, confirmed the report.
It is a great example of how sector-wide collaboration can succeed, Emese van Maanen, managing director, ProTerra, told FeedNavigator, on a call. “The suppliers concerned are entirely deforestation and land-conversion free and not only for [ProTerra] certified material.”
In January 2021, CJ Selecta, Caramuru and Imcopa/Cervejaria Petrópoli announced they would implement a 100% deforestation and land-conversion free soybean value chain in all of Brazil with August 2020 as their cut-off date.
That pledge, which came about following extensive dialogue between a working group involving those Brazilian companies and a raft of feed buyers in the European salmon sector, meant that soybeans produced on land converted after that date cannot enter the supply chain of any of these SPC suppliers.
The companies committed to promote a soy supply chain free from illegal and/or legal deforestation, to respect the rights of workers, indigenous peoples, and local communities, and to ensure that sourcing was fully compliant with national and local environmental laws and regulations.
Together with the sustainability standard owner, ProTerra, and WWF Brazil, those SPC and soybean meal suppliers also agreed on a robust MRV system, based on the Accountability Framework initiative, to implement and enforce their commitment to zero deforestation.
The newly released findings of the audit, which relied on satellite techniques and embargo lists, confirms that CJ Selecta, Caramuru, and Imcopa have kept their promises.
The Brazilian value chain includes 5,161 direct suppliers that grow over 2.9 million tons of soy on land covering more than 33,294 km, spanning the Amazon, Cerrado and the Atlantic Forest biome. In 2021, 29 suppliers, in total, were blocked because they did adhere to the required criteria.
The auditor analyzed the companies’ social and environmental monitoring systems, how they went about their registration of suppliers, their purchasing of soybeans and their geospatial monitoring, said van Maanen.
And he tested the companies’ internal process, as regards contract negotiations, to see whether the corporate system automatically approved or blocked certain purchases or certain suppliers based on the criteria.
The auditor also cross-checked, for each company, a sample of 50 names, randomly chosen from the public lists of farms that incurred social and/or environmental liabilities, against the list of soy farms in the supplier’s purchasing records. No relationship or conflict was found between the names in the soybean suppliers’ lists and those randomly selected from the consulted public lists.
In addition, the validation procedure checked that farmers did not use slave, child, or illegal labor and that there was no agriculture overlaps with indigenous lands.
While this first audit did not focus on indirect suppliers – intermediates - they will be covered by the MRV audits in the coming year, said the ProTerra lead.
Boycotting deemed redundant
“Soy is a wonderful crop from an agronomic perspective. And we have seen that it can be produced sustainably. Therefore, it is unjust that it has been demonized over the years.
“Boycotting a particular soy growing region does not help, in my view. We have seen examples where it can actually worsen the situation as then companies no longer have any more pull to improve production metrics.
“The buyers in our working group - Mowi, BioMar, Skretting, Cargill Aquaculture – believe that they can do much more to protect the environment by working together with the partners, promoting dialogue and open discussion and engagement and not just boycotting and changing the origin. I think it is very important, in any sustainability discussion, that we don’t just automatically turn away from slightly more complicated regions," remarked van Maanen.
Moreover, the achievements by these three suppliers may motivate larger soy traders, those companies supplying the global meat chain, to accelerate environmental commitments, she said.
“Achieving a certain critical mass is the key and this [salmon feed] model shows it is possible, I do believe this is feasible for other animal feed supply chains to implement."
The industry now has access to monitoring and verification technology to enable buyers to have more data on supply chains, to help them to make well informed choices and for them to gauge risks in terms of sourcing, she noted.
“Around 10 years ago we were focused very much on determining what had to be done, today the focus is more on the how. The pressure is increasing, and we have the necessary tools at hand, so we can achieve so much more.”
Obstacles to ensuring a mainstream shift in responsible soy sourcing, she continued, include the lack of wider understanding that it takes effort to change practices, starting at the farmer level, setting up sustainable chains, monitoring and verifying production conditions. Such efforts need to be valued and compensated, stressed van Maanen.