Soy is one of the most widely used ingredients in our food products, including tofu, soy drink, soy oil, soy flour, or soy lecithin. However, the clear majority of the soy used in our supply chains, is embedded in our animal protein supply chains (meat, farmed fish, eggs and dairy). This is because soy, a high in protein legume, is fed to animals to help maintain healthy growth. In recent years, there has been a sharp increase in demand for soy. This resulted in a rapid expansion of soy production in South America, particularly in Brazil, where there are large amounts of fertile land and water.
The widespread cultivation of soy comes with a number of serious challenges. Soy is considered one of the major drivers of deforestation globally. To cultivate soy, land can be converted from forest and grassland habitats into soy plantations. This conversion can threaten important species and biodiversity, and impacts the livelihoods of local communities. Large scale soy plantations can also lead to soil damage and water pollution. This problem is most acute in Brazil’s Amazon and Cerrado regions, where soy is a major production crop.
The soy supply chain is long and complicated, and it is difficult to know exactly where the soy in our supply chains comes from, and what the environmental and social impact of that soy is. For Ahold Delhaize brands, it is clear that the biggest risks are linked with soy coming from South America, which is where we focus our efforts. Ahold Delhaize brands are working towards 100% sustainably certified higher risk soy. Our brands work with standards, like the Roundtable on Responsible Soy (RTRS), which can ensure that deforestation is not part of our soy supply chains. These standards also include requirements on fertilizer and pesticide use to protect soils and water. Certification also ensures good labor practices are met, and that communities and workers have a voice.