On 9 November 2021, UK industry leaders from 27 major businesses united in signing the UK Soy Manifesto 1. This commits them to cutting deforestation and habitat destruction out of UK soy supply chains as soon as possible and by 2025 at the latest.

Signatories include all of the biggest UK grocery retailers (including Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s and Iceland), some of the largest meat producers (including Avara Foods, 2 Sisters Food Group, Cranswick and Pilgrim’s UK) and food service companies and brands (such as Danone, Nestle UK and Ireland, Nando’s, KFC UK and Ireland, and McDonald’s UK and Ireland).

Between them, they represent nearly 2 million metric tons of soy purchases each year and nearly 60% of all UK soy bought every year.

In order to ensure rapid progress towards this goal, all signatories agree to:

  1. Setting a robust deforestation- and conversion-free commitment – so no soy arriving in the UK is responsible for habitats being cleared for agriculture after January 20202
  2. Asking direct suppliers to adopt the same commitment – and require that of their suppliers as well
  3. Writing Manifesto commitments into contracts and supporting suppliers to ensure targets are met
  4. Publicly sharing details of their progress
  5. Support improved reporting in order to check that soy coming into the UK is not responsible for deforestation or destruction of other ecosystems.

“The UK Soy Manifesto presents a key opportunity to ensure that UK industry is free from soy linked to deforestation and natural habitat conversion. Such commitments need to be backed by robust and transparent monitoring systems. I'm looking forward to working with the companies who sign the Manifesto, and other experts, to improve our understanding of supply chains: where the risk points are and how they can be overcome. We aim to protect highly important landscapes by supporting sustainable soy production in all places that supply the UK. ”

— Dr Chris West, Deputy Centre Director (Research), SEI York

The conversion of forests and other ecosystems for agricultural production – including the production of soy, palm, beef and timber – is a major contributor to climate change, as well as driving biodiversity loss. Just under a quarter (23%) of global human-caused greenhouse gas emissions come from agriculture, forestry and other land uses, and most of these emissions are due to deforestation3. It does not have to be this way: agricultural and forestry commodities can be grown without further destroying native vegetation4.

The UK’s consumption of soy – 3.5 million tons in 2020 – though small in global terms, is contributing to pressure on biodiverse landscapes such as the Cerrado, the Atlantic Forest, the Gran Chaco and Chiquitania in South America. UK consumption of soy in 2017 led to an estimated 3081 hectares of deforestation, an area twice the size of the City of London5. Soy is one of the main contributors to the UK’s deforestation and conversion footprint today6. Most of this soy is used in the form of animal feed.

UK industry has already started to take action to protect forests and other natural ecosystems by improving transparency and information sharing throughout UK soy supply chains, and driving increased use of certification to support sustainable soy production in South America. However, there is a shared recognition of the need to take more ambitious action, faster and at scale. Mainstream transformation cannot be achieved by companies working on their individual supply chains alone. Businesses all across supply chains, as well as soy producers, must take responsibility and act together.

Global markets need to provide financial incentives and technical support7 to boost sustainable production. Governments in producer and consumer countries and regions also have an important role to play.

UK industry welcomes the commitments announced at COP26 by producer and consumer governments to promote sustainable development and trade while protecting forests and other critical ecosystems, through the Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration on Forests and Land Use and the Forest, Agriculture and Commodity Trade Dialogue (FACT) Joint Statement and Roadmap For Action.

“The conversion of forests and other ecosystems for agricultural production – including the production of soy – is a major contributor to climate change, as well as driving biodiversity loss. Soy is the single most impactful forest-risk commodity in Tesco's supply chain, which is why we've already made a commitment that by 2025 we will only source soy from whole areas verified as deforestation-free. But we can't solve this issue on our own. The launch of the UK Soy Manifesto is a critical milestone for our industry, bringing together brands, retailers, food service companies and livestock producers operating in the UK, and setting out a clear commitment for all physical shipments of soy to the UK to be deforestation and conversion free by 2025 ”

— Ken Murphy, CEO of Tesco

The UK Soy Manifesto aligns with and builds upon similar initiatives in other markets such as the French Soy Manifesto, to show increasing demand and action plans from industry on removing all deforestation and ecosystem destruction from soy supply chains.

Deputy Director (Research) of SEI York Chris West, Tesco CEO Ken Murphy and WWF-UK CEO Tanya Steele will all speak at the UK Soy Manifesto’s formal virtual launch on Tuesday 9 November, where they will be joined by signatories, industry representatives and other experts.

“We’ve got to address deforestation. It’s our responsibility to manage our supply chain, but with the complexity of distribution and scale, it will take more than our influence alone to transition to sustainable soya. The collective action of the entire food industry is needed. That’s why we are proud to be a signatory of the UK Soy Manifesto, and to collaborate on making real progress around halting and reversing deforestation.”

— Paula MacKenzie, Managing Director, KFC UK&I

“The launch of the UK Soy Manifesto is a truly historic achievement and a clear statement of intent across the UK industry that Waitrose is proud to support. Protecting nature in regions where agri-commodities are grown is paramount if we are to halt climate change and biodiversity loss. But the scale of the challenge and complexity of global soya supply chains is beyond what any one company alone can solve. By acting together, companies in the UK and more broadly can achieve the critical mass needed to help transform the way soya is grown and traded and enable the supply of deforestation-free soya at scale. Alongside other national initiatives, due diligence legislation, and the commitments on forests announced by national governments, the finance industry, and agri-commodity traders at COP26, we’re hopeful that this will create a real turning point for nature in precious ecosystems like the Cerrado. We look forward to playing an active role in the implementation of the UK Soy Manifesto and delivering its goal of deforestation and conversion free soya before 2025.”

— Marija Rompani, Ethics & Sustainability Director, John Lewis Partnership

“The global food industry has become overly dependent on protein-rich soy and this continues to negatively impact nature in places like the Brazilian Amazon. At M&S, our priority is to eliminate deforestation from the production of our products and we’ve committed to 100% of our soy being conversion-free and sourced from verified deforestation- free regions by 2025. We want to play our part in supporting an industry wide transition to a more sustainable model of soy production that protects the health of our planet and look forward to working closely with other signatories of the UK Soy Manifesto to achieve this.”

— Paul Willgoss, Director of Technology, Marks & Spencer Food

“The UK Government welcomes the leadership role UK companies are taking to drive the transition to deforestation-free soy supply chains through the UK Soy Manifesto. Initiatives like the Manifesto can complement Government efforts to meeting our climate and environment objectives.”

— UK Government

Register for the online launch Tuesday 9 November 13:00 - 14:30 GMT

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For further information, additional content or to arrange an interview, please contact:

Frances Dixon
Communications Manager

T: +44 (0) 7859147820
E: frances.dixon@sei.org

Footnotes

  1. The UK Soy Manifesto is facilitated by Efeca , the convenor of the UK Roundtable on Sourcing Sustainable Soya and collectively led by all its industry signatories. Other civil society organizations (including WWF and Global Canopy), consultancies and research partners provide support to the Manifesto.
  2. The commitment must be aligned with the principles, operational guidance and definitions set out in the Accountability Framework – a practical consensus-based guide for achieving and monitoring deforestation-, conversion- and human rights abuse-free supply chains.
  3. IPCC (2019), Special Report on climate change, desertification, land degradation, sustainable land management, food security, and greenhouse gas fluxes in terrestrial ecosystems .
  4. In the Cerrado alone, 23 million hectares of already cleared land is available to grow soy. This could at least double production in the region for decades to come, supporting economic development in Brazil, without further devastation of the ecosystem. See Rausch et al. (2019), Soy expansion in Brazil’s Cerrado .
  5. JNCC (2021) https://hub.jncc.gov.uk/assets/91efc19d-f675-426f-9333-ed0195cc729d and via the commodity footprint dashboard https://www.commodityfootprints.earth and to the final report: https://hub.jncc.gov.uk/assets/91efc19d-f675-426f-9333-ed0195cc729d
  6. Ibid.
  7. This may include financial incentives (grants or low-interest loans) and/or technical assistance to support producers to protect native vegetation on their private property and only expand production on existing cleared land (such as degraded agricultural land).