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Lidl Pledges to Make Soy Supply Chain More Sustainable

By Amy Brown

The giant discount European supermarket chain Lidl has lent its considerable influence to the growing movement by supermarket retailers and soy producers towards developing a sustainable global supply chain.

In the United Kingdom, Lidl has promised to ensure its entire soy supply comes from sustainable, deforestation-free certified sources. The company’s British division claims this is the most responsible sourcing policy for soy of any supermarket chain. Lidl also says it is the first retailer in the U.K. to purchase 100 percent sustainably-sourced soy.

Lidl is a division of Schwarz Group, one of Europe’s largest retailers, with 10,500 stores in 30 countries. The company said it will work with all its U.K. suppliers to "achieve physically traceable, sustainable, zero-deforestation soy in the long term.”

More soy, less forest

Soybean oil is already the second most widely used oil in the world. And global soy production is predicted to continue to grow significantly, to provide both edible oil and livestock protein feed. Demand for soy is also being driven by the biofuel sector using the crop to produce alternatives to fossil fuels.

But expanding soy production comes with a cost for the environment and for local communities—leading to the loss of forests and other native vegetation in the Amazon and cerrado across South America.

Pushing for market transformation

This new policy will take effect this month, Lidl said, with the firm purchasing credits from the Roundtable for Responsible Soy (RTRS) to ensure soy farmers are paid extra for producing soy sustainably. 

Lidl insists it wants to act as a catalyst for change. “We recognize the need to take immediate action in our own supply chains and stimulate market demand for sustainable, zero-deforestation soy,” the company announced in a public statement.

During the first phase, which started in September 2018, Lidl will purchase RTRS certificates on an annual basis through a “Book and Claim Direct Trade” approach to cover 100 percent of its soy footprint, creating what the company says is a clear market signal for sustainable soy.

The second phase aims for market transformation, with supply chains of responsibly sourced soy finding its way in both the U.K. and the European continent. Through the U.K. Roundtable of Sustainable Soy, Lidl says it intends to define “sustainable, zero-deforestation” soy and work with its suppliers and the entire soy industry to develop a range of mechanisms to achieve its goal, including strengthening standards beyond RTRS.

Joining a growing movement

Lidl is one of a number of companies, including manufacturers and retailers such as Unilever, Tesco and Marks and Spencer (M&S), that has signed the Cerrado Manifesto, which calls for zero-deforestation in Brazil’s cerrado region, where around 50 percent of the natural landscape is believed to have been lost since 2000. 

Soy giant Louis Dreyfus Company (LDC) also said earlier this year that it would move towards zero-deforestation across its supply chain by embedding the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) into its updated raw materials strategy.

As it strives to attain this goal, LDC has committed to publish information on all soy plantations it sources from - either directly or indirectly - as it already does with palm oil.

Campaigners such as Mighty Earth are applauding the industry’s actions. “There’s now no reason for McDonald’s and other companies to continue doing business with deforesters,” the group’s chief executive, Glenn Hurowitz, said after LDL’s announcement in July.

Image credit: Bambizoe/Flickr

Amy Brown headshot

Based in Florida, Amy has covered sustainability for over 25 years, including for TriplePundit, Reuters Sustainable Business and Ethical Corporation Magazine. She also writes sustainability reports and thought leadership for companies. She is the ghostwriter for Sustainability Leadership: A Swedish Approach to Transforming Your Company, Industry and the World. Connect with Amy on LinkedIn and her Substack newsletter focused on gray divorce, caregiving and other cultural topics.

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