We are committed to only using responsibly sourced soya. Our long-standing target is for 100% of the soya used in animal feed for the production of own-brand meat and farmed fish products, milk, and eggs to be organic or certified sustainable by the end of 2020.
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 be associated with negative environmental and social issues. Most soya is grown in South America, where deforestation and the conversion of natural and semi-natural habitats - along with the associated impacts on biodiversity and climate change - is a particular risk. That’s why we’re committed to achieving ‘zero deforestation’ in our own supply chains, and to working with others to support progress towards a sustainable soya industry more widely. We also collaborate with our suppliers to explore alternatives to soya in animal feed.
Our journey to sustainable soya
Waitrose & Partners has worked with suppliers on responsible soya for a number of years, primarily via our Livestock Steering Group, which accounts for the majority of our soya footprint. We have reported our progress annually in the John Lewis Partnership Corporate Responsibility Report.
Working with independent expert consultants, we carried out a detailed footprint exercise for 2018, expanding our scope for soya used in animal feed to include all meat and meat ingredients, all fish and fish ingredients, all shell eggs and all liquid milk.
Waitrose & Partners: Animal feed soya footprint - 2018:
The results of that exercise are shown above, i.e. that 51% of our footprint was certified sustainable via physical supply chains, 15% was certified organic and 34% was certified via credits.
We believe that the credits are a vital tool to support and incentivise the responsible production of soya. This year, we purchased 12,600 RTRS credits to support farmers in the Maranhao and Piaui areas of Brazil, home to much of the vulnerable Cerrado ecosystem. The six farms we supported have, on average, 37% of their land given over to environmental reserves, areas of native vegetation which could otherwise be vulnerable to clearance. Credits provide a financial incentive for these farms to continue their production of responsible soy, rewarding them for their leading production practices, and helping ensure that forests and other native vegetation are is not cleared for soya production.
Our 2019 plans
Our next step is to go beyond our original target and include soya used in the production of key dairy and egg ingredients in our footprint. We will continue to report on our progress each year, and will work with the wider industry to play our part in moving the soya sector to a more sustainable footing.
Supporting wider industry change
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 Steering 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.
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 continue to work with our suppliers, and other partners, to explore alternative proteins for animal feed.
Our Forage Protein Programme, where farmers in our beef, lamb and milk supply chains grew new forage protein crops on their farms, is a key example of this. Following this 5-year Innovate UK funded project, collaborating with industry and academic partners, we launched a range of Waitrose Farming Partnership grass and protein mixes for our farmers to grow.
Waitrose also participated in a four-year Innovate UK funded ‘Optibean’ project exploring 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.
Growing and sourcing animal feed sustainably can be complex. Animal feed has to be right for the health and wellbeing of the animal and for the quality of the final product – as well as ensuring minimal environmental impact in the growing stage.
To help bring structure to this complexity, we’ve been working with NGO Forum for the Future on their ‘Feed Compass’ project. The ‘Feed Compass’ sets out nine principles for assessing sustainable animal feed, which helps guide both the conversations we have with our suppliers, the way we make our sourcing decisions, and where we put our focus for the future.