Asda commits to new zero-deforestation soy policy

Supermarket giant Asda has this week made a fresh sustainability pledge to ensure that the soy it sources for agricultural raw materials and animal feed is "net-zero deforestation" verified by 2020.

Through its membership to the Consumer Goods Forum and with support from parent company Walmart, Asda will work with suppliers to identify those in at-risk areas for deforestation caused by soy planting.

Suppliers that fall into this “high-risk” category will be required to achieve coverage under zero-deforestation soy credit schemes by 2020, while those in “low-risk” areas such as the US will be required to comply with a new set of sustainable agricultural practices.

As for its own-brand products, Asda has pledged to source 100% responsible-certified soya by 2025 for its “primary protein” range, which consists of non-processed meat and plant-based protein products.

The supermarket has also unveiled plans to work closely with suppliers of its processed foods such as ready meals in order to remove all non-sustainably sourced soy from each component. A completion date for this aim has not yet been revealed.

“Soy production can exist without deforestation, but the supply chain is complex and creating change requires collaboration between retailers, suppliers, governments and NGOs,” Asda’s sustainability manager Laura Babbs said.

“At Asda, we’re committed to playing our part and making sure that we safeguard our forests for the long term.”

Fighting forest loss

In addition to its newly-announced soy commitments, Asda recently signed the New York Declaration on Forests, which commits signatories to halving global forest loss by 2020 and stopping it altogether by 2030.

The move comes after parent company Walmart signed the Cerrado Manifesto, which calls for zero-deforestation in Brazil’s Cerrado region, where around 50% of the natural landscape is believed to have been lost since 2000. 

Along with corporate buyers such as Unilever, Tesco and Marks and Spencer (M&S) and investors including Legal and General Investment Management (LGIM), APG and Robeco, Walmart has committed to help halt forest and native vegetation loss in the region. 

Supply chain changes

With the world’s population widely expected to grow to more than nine billion people by 2050, Asda is just one of many businesses exploring ways to meet growing demands for food while minimising negative impacts on forests.

Tesco recently pledged to ensure that the soy it sources for its own-brand products and animal feed is verified as “zero deforestation” by 2025, for example, while Lidl last month became the first UK retailer to switch to 100% sustainably-sourced soy for its own-brand products after joining the Government’s Roundtable for Sustainable Soy.

Elsewhere, soy giant Louis Dreyfus Company (LDC) has embedded the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) into its updated raw materials strategy in a bid to tackle forest loss.

As for palm oil, which is found in more than half of all supermarket products despite its links to deforestation, frozen food giant Iceland is on track to remove the oil from all of its own-brand products by the end of the year.

Unilever, meanwhile, has struck a deal with a government-owned palm oil plantation firm in Indonesia to create a support framework that enables local mills and smallholders to produce palm oil according to zero-deforestation and zero-peatland-deterioration standards. 

Sarah George 

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