In 2010, the board of the Consumer Goods Forum (CGF) made a landmark commitment, on behalf of its 400 member companies, to help achieve zero net deforestation by 2020. Because of the significant control CGF members have over sectors exposed to commodities driving deforestation, this commitment was recognised as having the power to transform commodity supply chains.
Many retailers are at risk of stocking products sourced from cattle raised on recently deforested tropical forest lands. However, some retailers have relatively greater exposure to this problem – as well as greater power to address it.
The soya industry is booming across the world. Since April 2011 the global production of soya has risen 35% in response to widespread demand for the hardy, protein-rich bean. It may come as a surprise to some that it is a common ingredient in chocolate and soap, in addition to its more obvious presence on our shelves as tofu or vegetable oil. However, the greatest demand is from the animal feed industry. Livestock farmers and feed manufacturers favour soya as it has the highest protein content per hectare of any crop, making it a more efficient investment. It also provides a greater complement of essential amino acids, minimising costs spent on supplements for their animals. A sizeable 75% of soya grown is used to make animal feed. Unfortunately the benefits of soya have been bad news for forests in Latin America.
It takes an incredible amount of intelligence, creativity, and team-work to produce and extract oil from plants grown in the tropics, transport it around the earth, and transform it into something you can buy for a couple of dollars and squeeze onto a toothbrush as the sun rises in Berlin, Beijing or Boston.