Co-op targets 100% sustainably sourced soy through credits scheme

Co-op's overarching aim is 100% physically certified soy across its supply chain by 2025

Announced today (8 April), the commitment will see Co-op use RTRS’s standards to ensure that all the soy used in its own-brand products and throughout its meat, fish, egg and dairy supply chains comes from “deforestation-free” sources.

The retailer will begin by purchasing credits, which create an audit chain to prove that suppliers are engaging with responsible production techniques, through the RTRS. Under the credits, suppliers are required to protect their land against the potential negative impacts of rising soy demands, including biodiversity loss, soil degradation and deforestation.

Co-op has funded the credit scheme through to the end of 2020, with 99% of the credits set to cover animal feed throughout its supply chains. It will simultaneously work towards 100% physical sustainable and “deforestation-free” soy across its supply chain by 2025 as it decreases its reliance on RTRS credits, reporting progress on an annual basis.

“The increasing demand for animal feed and rising global consumption of meat is having a major impact on the environment in major soya producing countries in South America, as well as the wildlife which depends on the native vegetation for its very survival,” Co-op’s sustainable sourcing and Fairtrade manager Sarah Wakefield said.

“This is an issue which will create major challenges for the environment tomorrow, unless transparent, joined-up and decisive steps are taken today.”

The announcement is the latest in a string of sustainable soy commitments from UK supermarkets. In recent months, Asda has pledged to ensure that the soy it sources for agricultural raw materials and animal feed is “net-zero deforestation” verified by 2020 as part of a partnership with the Consumer Goods Forum, while Tesco has committed to source its soy solely from existing agricultural land by 2025, with a soy credit offsetting scheme having begun last July.

Sustainable sourcing progress

Co-op’s new soy target builds on its existing membership to the UK Roundtable on Sustainable Soy, a cross-sector coalition which aims to leverage private sector actors in order to send an industry-led market signal for sustainable soy to suppliers around the world.

Through the Roundtable, Co-op has committed to collaborating with suppliers and other stakeholders in soy-producing countries to help them overcome the challenges of making production more environmentally and socially sustainable, while working with other food and drink businesses to influence a wider market shift.

The supermarket has also 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) investors including Legal and General Investment Management (LGIM), APG and Robeco, Co-op has committed to help halt forest and native vegetation loss in the region. 

Away from soy, Co-op has also been a long-term supporter of the Fairtrade movement. In 2017, the Co-op became the first UK retailer to sell and use only Fairtrade cocoa in own-brand products, and has since partnered with the Fairtrade Foundation to create a new sourcing model, which has seen more than 200 Co-op products switch to 100% Fairtrade cocoa.

Sarah George

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