Responsible Soy in Europe

For several years now, responsibly produced products have been a hot topic, both within the EU and globally. The demand for sustainable palm oil has taken off, and it is forecast to grow even further, as outlined in our industry note ‘The Many Flavours of Sustainable Palm Oil’. The EU demand for responsible soy, however, has so far not translated into significant market share.

Picture of hands holding soy

Responsible soy shows continued growth

RTRS (the Round Table on Responsible Soy) recently announced that production and sales of RTRS-certified responsible soy have reached 2.3m tonnes, up 70% YOY. On the supply side, this was reflected by 715,000 hectares being certified, an increase of 48% compared to the previous year. On a global scale, this means that 0.6% of all soybean acreage and 0.7% of all soybeans consumed was RTRS-certified. To put things into the EU perspective: Even if all of this soy would have been consumed in the EU, it would still only reflect just shy of 6% of all soy consumed there.

In late January, RTRS held a workshop in Switzerland, bringing together about 45 experts from Europe and South America. At multiple sessions, they discussed the key issues needing to be tackled in order to reach the goal of 100% responsible soy in Europe by 2020. Rabobank’s Olaf Brugman (who is also President of the RTRS on behalf of Rabobank) and Stefan Vogel, Rabobank’s Global Sector Strategist Grains & Oilseeds, participated, together with attendees from the Americas and the EU, several of them Rabobank clients from the feed & processing industry, trade and production.

Conducting a responsible soy bean count

The EU relies heavily on imports of soybeans and soymeal in order to supply its livestock sector. More than 95% of the ~31m tonnes of soymeal consumed in the EU is imported—either directly as meal (~20m tonnes) or as soybeans (~13m tonnes)—and processed into soymeal in the EU. While it is defined what kinds of environmental and socio-economic criteria responsible soy needs to meet, the question on how to promote the use and production of it is not an easy one. The workshop participants identified 12 key issues which can improve the supply and demand of responsible soy in Europe. Among them were topics related to deforestation, governmental initiatives and regulations, and finance. RTRS will use the results of this workshop to drive initiatives in order to achieve a large share of responsible soy use in the EU.

Promoting sustainable agricultural supply chains is one of the pillars of ‘Sustainably Successful Together’, Rabobank’s sustainability agenda through 2020. Soybeans is one of the ten agricultural commodities for which Rabobank specifically supports multi-stakeholder industry initiatives (such as the RTRS) in order to make the supply chain more sustainable. RTRS aims to promote and improve legal compliance, environmental responsibility, fair labour conditions, sound community relationships and the use of good agricultural practices by its Standard for Responsible Soy Production. The RTRS association was founded in Switzerland in 2006, and Rabobank is both an institutional and executive board member.

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