What is the UK Soy Manifesto, what is it aiming to achieve?

The UK Soy Manifesto (the Manifesto) sets out a clear market requirement from industry (soy users) for all physical shipments of soy to the UK to be deforestation and conversion free as soon as possible, and by 2025 at the latest, with an undertaking from signatories to the Manifesto to embed this requirement in commercial contractual requirements with suppliers. This follows the lead of the existing French Soy Manifesto and sits alongside discussions on similar sustainable soy initiatives in Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands.

The Manifesto aims to ‘raise the bar’ for all UK industry, creating a level playing field upon which additional requirements can be built upon and through alignment with the French Soy Manifesto and other national sustainable soy platforms help to ‘scale up’ European influence and leverage on global soy markets.

However, this can only be done by working in collaboration with soy farmers and producers. The Manifesto also aims to provide a platform through which signatories can be signposted to a broader set of complementary actions they can engage in to support soy farmers in this transition, for example supporting transformational change at a landscape or jurisdictional level in key producing landscapes/countries.

Why is the UK Soy Manifesto needed?

2021 presents an opportunity to galvanise the momentum of COP26 to tackle emissions within supply chains driven by unsustainable soy production, and protect against the further loss of forests and native vegetation that provide the natural climate solutions necessary to achieve the Paris Climate Agreement and mitigate climate change.

The transition to sustainable supply chains is underway, with industry leading this move in the UK, but progress is not being made at the scale and pace required. Industry recognises the need to act beyond individual supply chains and beyond national initiatives. For a globally traded commodity such as soy, enabling change requires a level playing field for all actors, including producers.

Who can sign the UK Soy Manifesto?

Any company operating in the UK that has soy within their supply chain is welcome to become a signatory. This includes companies that use soy directly, e.g., producing a soymilk drink, or indirectly, for example a food manufacturer using meat products.

Industry associations that represent companies but do not purchase and/or use soy themselves may become a ‘supporter’ of the Manifesto, committing to sharing learnings and encouraging members to engage.

How is this different from other sustainable soy initiatives?

This Manifesto is different to what has come before as it brings together a wide range of actors across the supply chain but also across Europe. By aligning with other national initiatives, the Manifesto can support increased leverage and scale.

Critically, the Manifesto aims to provide a greater level of specificity and rigour to the implementation and delivery of existing commitments on soy by setting out clear requirements for companies along the supply chain.

Through implementation of the Manifesto, industry should be able to talk confidently about the sustainability of their physical soy supply chains, with the aim of effecting change at scale to ensure deforestation and conversion free soy becomes a mass market, ‘mainstream’ reality.

What is the geographic scope of the Manifesto?

The scope of the UK Soy Manifesto is all soy entering the UK, from all countries of origin.

Is embedded soy included in the scope of the Manifesto?

Manifesto commitments apply to all soy supplied by signatories (or products containing soy or embedded soy) to the UK market, including all own brand products where applicable.

Manifesto commitments also apply to non-UK direct suppliers of products containing soy or embedded soy (e.g., meat and dairy products) as well as those based in the UK, to ensure a level playing field.

Are branded products included in the scope of the Manifesto?

For those signatories selling/trading branded products, the manifesto requires that they encourage branded suppliers to make similar commitments in line with the Manifesto.

Is the Manifesto setting a new standard for sustainable soy?

No. The Manifesto will be seeking alignment with definitions of deforestation and conversion free soy derived from the Accountability Framework and in line with other existing initiatives on sustainable soy. The Manifesto aims to support UK companies to meet forthcoming mandatory due diligence regulations, currently being developed by the UK Government.

Is the UK, through the Manifesto, aiming to incentivise production of soy away from Brazil? 

The intention of the Manifesto is not to exclude any countries, trade routes or soy farmers from UK supply chains but to encourage and support soy farmers in Brazil and elsewhere that are committed to working to achieve the transition to deforestation and conversion free soy. 

Will this Manifesto support or exclude soy farmers?

The aim of this Manifesto is to send a clear market signal that UK companies wish to support deforestation and conversion free soy production. The Manifesto recognises the need for collective action and includes an agreed set of activities that each supply chain actor commits to.

Recognising the need for change, these activities will include collaborating with soy traders and other supply chain stakeholders to ensure soy farmers are supported to make this transition. The intention of the Manifesto is not to exclude any countries, trade routes or soy farmers from UK supply chains but to encourage and support soy farmers in Brazil and elsewhere that are committed to working to achieve the transition to deforestation and conversion free soy. 

To this end, the Manifesto aims to provide a platform through which signatories can be signposted to a broader set of complementary actions they can engage in, for example supporting transformational change at a landscape or jurisdictional level in key producing landscapes/countries. Industry recognises that there are many existing platforms and initiatives already engaged in this space, and signatories of the Manifesto welcome the opportunity to collaborate with these groups, supply chain actors and their representatives on how best to support this transition.

Are you not undermining the sovereignty of producer countries such as Brazil to manage their own landscapes/forests?

The Manifesto fully respects the sovereignty of producing countries and recognises the significant actions that have already being taken to address deforestation for example through the global-leading Brazilian Forest Code, SojaPlus program and Amazon Soy Moratorium that since 2006 has dramatically reduced forest loss in the Amazon Biome.

The aim of the Manifesto is to support producing countries by providing a clear and consistent market message to producers, with support provided where necessary, to ensure further expansion of soy production is achieved in a sustainable way, securing long term growth for the benefit of farmers and protection of the environment.

Is the UK Government supportive of the UK Soy Manifesto?

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. Ensuring sustainable supply chains that protect landscapes and create positive outcomes for all actors in the supply chain is important to the UK and to meeting UK global climate ambitions.

The UK Government also commits to continue to work with partner producer and consumer governments critical to soy supply chains to ensure that the enabling environment is established to support shared objectives, including through the UK’s co-leaderships of the COP 26 Forests, Agriculture and Commodity Trade Dialogue.

Initiatives like the Manifesto can complement these efforts to increase transparency and bring about the needed industry leadership that will prove vital in meeting UK climate and environment objectives.

Won’t the Manifesto simply result in the displacement of soy linked to deforestation/conversion to other less discerning markets?

The aim of the Manifesto is twofold – to remove the market for unsustainably produced soy (breaking the link with soy produced on converted land) and provide a market that rewards and incentivises deforestation and conversion free production. 

Acting at a European level reduces the risk of displacement in European markets and aims to provide a compelling model to demonstrate to other key markets such as China that deforestation-free soy is a viable market option.

How are soy shippers and traders being engaged in these discussions?

Traders and shippers of soy, and the broader feed industry, have been actively engaged in the development and delivery of deforestation and conversion free soy to the UK market, and as such, have been engaged in and will be critical to the delivery of the UK Soy Manifesto.  

A significant blocker for traders is often scale, as individual supply chains or individual country volumes are often insufficient to incentivise change on the ground in producer countries. By aligning a UK Manifesto with other European markets, we aim to increase the volume of the ask and drive greater change.

What will the commercial consequences be if the asks of the Manifesto are not met?

Commercial consequences ensure individual accountability, while recognising there is a shared responsibility in creating deforestation and conversion free supply chains.  

Specific courses of action and triggers leading to commercial consequences will be determined by individual companies not the Manifesto, but the Manifesto commitments (including a cut-off date of 2020 at the latest) should be fully integrated within all commercial contractual requirements and buying/procurement processes, either directly (e.g. Manifesto requirements written into supplier contracts) or indirectly (e.g. supplier contracts requiring compliance to separately documented buying policies including the Manifesto commitments). Signatory companies should have clear policies and procedures for how non-compliance will be addressed including the pathway back to compliance that rewards good faith and effective efforts by suppliers to work towards deforestation and conversion free soy.

The Accountability Framework provides additional guidance on supply chain management.

How will compliance with the UK Soy Manifesto be monitored?

Manifesto signatories will be required to publish an annual progress report, outlining their progress each year. It is expected that reporting will improve overtime as companies gain more knowledge, and shared solutions are agreed and adopted.

Signatories also commit to supporting the creation of a harmonised monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV) system. This would provide:

  • An independently verified measure of imported soy at a national level against the Manifesto goal of deforestation and conversion-free soy (aligned with the French Soy Manifesto and Accountability Framework), building on information already gathered and reported by the Agricultural Industries Confederation (AIC), Trase and other key stakeholders in the UK;
  • A mechanism to publicly report collective progress at a national level against the Manifesto goal;
  • An additional tool for industry sectors/individual signatory companies to triangulate the findings of their own monitoring, verification and reporting activity - validating their own risk analysis, filling gaps or as a starting point of assessment for them to add to in their own conversations with direct suppliers;
  • A method to identify production areas within the UK’s footprint where the risk of deforestation is greatest and where Manifesto members may wish to support collective interventions with other stakeholders e.g., landscapes initiatives.

This MRV system will be developed following the launch of the Manifesto, with a timeline of expected deliverables published by the end of 2021.

What is the role of certification?

Signatories of the Manifesto welcome and value the role that certification plays in supporting the transition to sustainable use of commodities. Amongst other benefits certification sets a clear standard for best practice across a range of environmental and social criteria and enables the supply chain to support sustainable producers.

Civil society have advised caution on over reliance on certification to implement deforestation- and conversion-free commitments. Currently only 2% of soy produced globally is certified. The majority of certified soy purchases are Book & Claim credits, which support sustainable soy production but provide no guarantee that the volumes of soy used by the buyers are free of environmental and social risks.  There is an increasing take up of more physical models of certification (e.g., mass balance) but it will be challenging to drive the transformation needed in the soy industry at the pace and scale required using certification alone.

The Manifesto will support all mechanisms that can help to accelerate the mass market uptake of deforestation and conversion free soy. 

How much soy does the UK consume each year?

There have been several studies of the UK’s soy consumption, and these estimate the UK uses approximately 3.5 million tonnes of soybean equivalents each year. This volume represents 10.5% of Europe’s annual consumption of 30 million tonnes. According to WWF’s Riskier Business (2020), 65% of the UK’s soy land footprint is located in Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay.

Data on the volume of deforestation and conversion free soy entering the UK is available via the AIC website.

What is the definition of 'verified deforestation and conversion free soy' or vDCF?

In November 2022 the AIC Soy Supply Group and UK Soy Manifesto agreed the below aligned definition of verified deforestation and conversion free soy, and how existing forms of evidence can be used to demonstrate compliance. This is available here and on the Resouces page.

What progress has the UK Soy Manifesto made to date?

Signatories believe it is important that the Manifesto publicly reports on collective progress to build trust and confidence in this initiative. In June 2023 the Manifesto published it's first progress report, which is available here and on the Resouces page. This report is supported by individual Signatory reporting, and links to Signatories policies and reports are available through the progress tracker.

Data on the volume of deforestation and conversion free soy entering the UK is available on a quarterly basis, via the AIC website.