At Waitrose we're committed to sourcing our ingredients, including soya, in the most ethical way possible. We have set ourselves a target to source 100% of the soya used in feed for the production of own-brand meat, milk, poultry, egg and farmed fish products through certified sustainable sources, including organic and those operated by The Round Table on Responsible Soy and the Pro-Terra Foundation, by year-end 2020/21. We also work with others to support progress towards a sustainable soya industry more widely.
Soya, or soy, is a valuable and versatile ingredient which can be found in products ranging from tofu to chocolate. The main use for soya is in animal feed. As a high protein bean, it’s a key ingredient in some animal diets, particularly for our pigs, poultry and farmed fish.
Soya supply chains can however be associated with negative environmental and social issues. Most soya is grown in South America, where deforestation - along with its associated impacts on biodiversity, climate change and water systems - is a particular risk.
In addition to our work on sourcing sustainable soya, we also work closely with our suppliers and other partners to explore alternatives to soya, so that we make sure we’re using the most sustainable animal feed we can – one that’s right for the animals, for the environment, and our course for the quality of the product our customers buy.
Sourcing sustainable soya
We report our progress annually in our Corporate Responsibility Report. In 2017, our Feed Producer Group - who source the majority of our soya for animal feed - sourced 69% of their soya through certified sustainable sources.
We are active members of the Roundtable on Responsible Soy (RTRS), a global platform with members from across the soya supply chain who are committed to promoting the responsible sourcing of soy. We have submitted our annual progress report and purchased RTRS soya credits each year since 2012.
We have participated in the UK Roundtable on Sustainable Soya since its inception. We sit on the roundtable Working Group, where we collaborate with other companies and NGOs to move the whole UK soya supply to a more sustainable footing.
We support the Amazon Soy Moratorium and are signatories to the Statement of Support for the Cerrado Manifesto, declarations which aim to ensure the rainforests and natural grasslands of Brazil are properly protected. We participate in the Consumer Goods Forum Soya Working Group, and also in the Retailers Soy Group, a group of European retailers working together to explore pre-competitive ways to accelerate the use of sustainable soya.
In a first for a UK retailer, from October 2016, our pig supply chain began sourcing soy from the Danube region in Europe.
No Waitrose food is genetically modified - all food and ingredients are from conventional or organic crops. Our internal systems and external verification platforms track the use of soya as ingredients in own label products to ensure they come from a non-GM source.
All the animals that supply our organic meat, eggs and milk are fed diets containing non-GM protein. In our non-organic ranges, we make every effort to use non GM animal feed in close collaboration with our suppliers.
Alternatives to soya
We believe that, at the same time as sourcing soya more sustainably, it’s important to try to reduce our overall soya footprint, in order to tread as lightly on the environment as we can. We therefore work with our suppliers, and other partners, to explore alternative proteins for animal feed.
For several years we have worked with the NGO ‘Forum for the Future’ on their collaborative project ‘The Protein Challenge 2040’. The Protein Challenge examines how we balance supply and demand of protein for a growing population in a way which is affordable, healthy and good for the environment. Exploring what we feed animals is a key part of this challenge, and so the ‘Feed Compass’ tool was developed. ‘Feed Compass’ details a set of nine principles for assessing sustainable animal feed, which help guide our sourcing decisions.
Working with our key livestock suppliers, we recently completed a five-year Forage Protein Project which looked at how forage proteins (such as chicory, lucerne and red and white clover) could be used as alternatives to soya. The project involved eight farms from the Waitrose beef, lamb and dairy supply chains, which grew a range of high protein forage crops that they had not previously grown on their farm and fed it to their livestock. The farmers collaborated with researchers at Aberystwyth and Bangor Universities to monitor progress as well as recording production details that might impact on costs and carbon emissions.
Waitrose has also participated in a four-year Innovate UK funded ‘Optibean’ project looking into using faba beans as a potential replacement for soya in animal feed. Successful feeding trials have been carried out across our pig, poultry, egg and fish supply chains.