Tesco commits to new zero-deforestation soy policy

Supermarket giant Tesco has made a fresh sustainability pledge to ensure that the soy it sources for its own-brand products and animal feed is verified as "zero deforestation" by 2025.

The plan, which will see Tesco sourcing its soy solely from existing agricultural land, aims to preserve biodiversity and protect human rights in the supermarket’s supply chain as it strives to become a carbon-neutral company by 2050.

Called the UK Zero Deforestation Soy Transition Plan, the scheme will be implemented in three phases, with the first step seeing Tesco utilise soy credit schemes to offset its current deforestation impact by the end of 2018.

At the same time, Tesco’s livestock, including chickens and pigs, will be fed entirely with soy from existing agricultural land by 2019.

The second phase will see Tesco transition to Area Mass Balance (or Mass Balance) certified soy – which sees batches of non-certified soy mixed with certified sources – by the end of the decade, while the final phase will involve the business transitioning to sourcing from verified zero-deforestation areas.

“At Tesco our purpose is to serve customers a little better every day and we aim to provide them with affordable, sustainable and healthy products,” Tesco’s responsible sourcing manager, Dan Salter, said.

“By industry, civil society and governments working together, we can still halt global forest loss and safeguard our planet for future generations. We are looking forward to playing our part and working in collaboration with industry partners and others to achieve this goal.”

The scheme, which forms part of Tesco’s wider Little Helps sustainability plan, also requires the company to implement zero deforestation across all the agricultural raw materials it sources, including palm oil, paper and wood pulp – but Salter said in a statement that soy was Tesco’s “most important” resource in this area.

Tesco is a member of the Consumer Goods Forum (CGF), which has collectively committed to achieving zero-net deforestation in sourcing of agricultural raw materials by 2020.

The firm has already pledged to halt further forest loss to make way for soy planting, through the Amazon Soy Moratorium industry deal in South America, which sees corporates work with local governments and those who live off the land near the plantation.

Sustainable sourcing

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

Tesco’s pledge came in the same week that soy giant Louis Dreyfus Company (LDC) announced that it would move towards zero deforestation in its soy supply chain by embedding the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) into its updated raw materials strategy.

As it strives towards this goal, LDC has committed to publish information on all soy plantations it sources from – either directly or indirectly – as it already does with palm oil.

The pledges from LDC and Tesco were welcomed by campaigners at Mighty Earth, who claim the move will “set up industry-wide action to eliminate destruction of native vegetation”.

“This is a breakthrough from one of the world’s largest traders with huge significance to the global meat industry,” the group’s chief executive, Glenn Hurowitz, said of the LDC pledge.

“There’s now no reason for McDonald’s and other companies to continue doing business with deforesters.”

Supply chain transparency at Responsible Retail 2018

Solving key supply chain challenges – including deforestation – will be one of the key themes of edie’s third annual Responsible Retail conference, taking place on 20 September 2018 at 99 City Road, London.

The full-day event has been designed for the retailers, sustainability professionals and key stakeholders that are looking for the information, insight and inspiration required to seize the sustainability opportunity.

Find out more about Responsible Retail 2018 and register to attend here.

Sarah George

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie