Responsible Soy Roundtable unites market leaders on Sustainble Soy Value Chain in Europe
At its recent two-day annual conference in Lille, France, the global Roundtable on Responsible Soy Association (RTRS) drew in 170 delegates from across the world of agriculture, food and sustainability to discuss zero deforestation, transparency within the soy production system and the generational challenge of scaling up the demand for soy that has been certified as sustainable.
Attendees had the opportunity to listen to almost 50 speakers, in four languages, and take part on a series of ‘goldfish bowl’ workshops to explore in depth the key themes of the conference.
Opening up the event was Professor David Hughes of Imperial College, London. In a wide-ranging keynote, Professor Hughes talked about trends in human consumption, in particular a reduction in animal protein. He spoke of global trends, particularly in developed markets, to attempt to ‘Eat Better’ for both personal and planetary health, and he gave an overview of consumer trends and their connectivity with initiatives to increase the sustainability of key commodities, such as soy.
He also highlighted a critical point of tension: that consumers increasingly demand much higher standards and transparency from the food brands they buy, but they don’t want that higher standard to come at a higher price.
“We are the RTRS. A living, dynamic system and group of people that’s doing great things, all over the world.” Daniel Nepstad, Earth Enterprise Institute
Urgency and action
Jean Francois Timmers of WWF outlined the urgency facing humankind, and the planet, as over-consumption sees us all consuming the equivalent of 1.5 Planet Earths each year when, of course, we only have one. He also spoke of WWF’s strong commitment to support RTRS as one of the existing tools to tackle deforestation, and to quickly see a greater implementation of RTRS’ zero deforestation standard.
After the conference keynotes concluded there came a series of three sets of parallel workshops. The first set of workshops were organised under the theme of ‘Zero Deforestation’ and included supply chain risks, the tools available to monitor levels of forest cover and how to go from simple legal compliance to the critical target of zero deforestation.
A second wave of workshops looked at transparency in global soy and the supply chain, and here the discussion covered everything from workers rights and community benefits, to tools to achieve greater transparency, lessons that can be learnt from palm oil, and how (or if) to move from a credits-based system to the physical supply of segregated sources of soy that are guaranteed deforestation-free.
On the second day of the conference, the third workshop looked at the challenge of scaling up the efforts of RTRS and its partners, how to bolster the efforts of other standards, increase the level of partnership working with governments, business, NGOs and growers and how financial markets could play a greater part in supporting the RTRS mission.
“We need to think of what we’ve achieved in the last ten years, and what we’re going to achieve in the next ten years. We have to be innovative. We have to do something new. What will create next that everyone will follow?”. Juliana de Lavor Lopes, Amaggi
Scaling up, and reaching out
For the Executive Director of RTRS, the conference was important in that it marked another step forward for sustainable soy, but also was staged in Europe and drew in a truly diverse set of senior figures from food, farming and sustainability.
“We held RT12 in France because we know that our next big step forward has to be to raise our profile, and demand for sustainable soy, here in the vitally important European marketplace” he said.
“RT12 also helped to move us towards a new, higher standard for RTRS certification, but more importantly come to understand with all of our partners the challenges and opportunities we face in achieving zero deforestation, greater transparency in the supply chain, and the critical scale of certification that we will need to make all soy, responsible.
“Finally we showed here at RT12 that RTRS is about much more than just the certification of sustainable soy; we are the global platform for a debate about the future of soy production, our forests and the local communities where soy is produced.
“We are an important forum where all of the stakeholders in soy come together to tackle critical challenges like deforestation and workers rights. There are many standards that cover better soy production across the world, but only RTRS brings all the players together to work for higher standards, continuous improvement and the tougher targets we need to deliver a genuinely sustainable future.”
As RT12 drew to a close, those attending had done more than just listen to great keynotes, attend workshops and debate the issues facing sustainable soy in 2017; they’d also mapped out the full soy supply chain – physically – in the conference itself, created a ‘Yearbook’ of portraits and contact points, and analysed all of the future challenges and opportunities from the perspectives of each and every sector involved in producing, processing and marketing soy.
“We’ve been 100% engaged, and 100% focused,” said one delegate, summing up their two days in Lille.
“If you walk away, you lose your chance to engage and to make sustainable change happen.” Feed company executive
“It’s everyone’s responsibility. If we don’t all work together we won’t have zero deforestation in soy.” Grower from Mato Grosso
“Let us be bridges to customers. We are all on the same path.” Grower from Argentina
“To fight deforestation which is still legally allowed, you need governments to be in the room.”NGO
“Investors are really driving the agenda.”Olaf Brugman, Rabobank