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Supply Chain
How US Soy Is Cultivating Sustainability Around the World

Here, Abby Rinne — Director of Sustainability at the U.S. Soybean Export Council — discusses how U.S. Soy is helping customers both here and abroad reach their sustainability goals.

When it comes to sustainability, all soy products are not created equal. Over the last few decades, global soy production has risen and had major impacts on water, energy, deforestation and soil health — which is why it is essential for companies utilizing soy as an ingredient to ensure a sustainable supply chain.

U.S. Soy is committed to sustainable production and continuous improvement through the utilization of technology, collaboration across stakeholders, and rigorous sourcing requirements — a commitment that can be used as a proof point for their customers' own ESG initiatives through the U.S. Soy Sustainability Assurance Protocol (SSAP) with transferable certificates.

Sustainable Brands® sat down with Abby Rinne, Director of Sustainability at the U.S. Soybean Export Council, to discuss how U.S. Soy is helping its international customers reach their sustainability goals.

What does it mean for soy to be sustainably produced?

Abby Rinne: US soybean farmers have been focused on sustainable production for a very long time. Around 98 percent of US farms are family farms. This means many farms are passed down through generations — including the soil the crops are grown on. Farmers are stewards of their land — striving to learn more and adjust production methods to improve the soil and environment, while improving the production of soybeans.

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US soybean farmers employ things such as soil testing to determine the nutrients present in the soil and yield monitors at harvest; both are used to create plans for planting, in-season applications, scouting and harvesting. The use of precision agriculture allows all these practices to be done with detailed accuracy to minimize inputs while maximizing yields.

US soybean farmers follow numerous laws and regulations that protect our natural resources and the public, as well as participate in voluntary programs offered through the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), such as the Conservation Reserve Program and the Environmental Quality Incentives Program.

All of these efforts and practices contribute to U.S. Soy having the lowest carbon footprint compared to soy of other countries: When you evaluate cultivation, transport and land-use change, U.S. Soy’s carbon footprint is 92 percent lower than other major soy-sourcing countries, according to Blonk ConsultantsAgri-Footprint 5.0 database.

Image credit: US Soybean Export Council

US soybean farmers have a strong commitment to sustainable production and continuous improvement. This is highlighted by the sustainability goals adopted in 2014 and based on the Field to Market 2000 benchmark. By 2025, U.S. Soy farmers commit to:

  • Reducing land-use impact by 10 percent

  • Reducing soil erosion by 25 percent

  • Increasing energy use efficiency by 10 percent

  • Reducing total GHG emissions by 10 percent

How has U.S. Soy engaged stakeholders to drive sustainability?

AR: U.S. Soy has engaged with various organizations throughout its sustainability journey — including the European Feed Manufacturers’ Federation (FEFAC), Global Seafood Alliance Best Aquaculture Practices, UK Roundtable on Sustainable Soya, Aquaculture Stewardship Council, World Wildlife Fund and The Nature Conservancy, amongst others. These interactions involve understanding sourcing requirements, engaging in feedback, and representatives serving on working groups and advisory positions.

What is the U.S. Soy Sustainability Assurance Protocol (SSAP)?

AR: The SSAP was developed in 2013 through a multi-stakeholder process to meet international sourcing requirements. It verifies that U.S. Soy is raised in a sustainable manner by protecting natural resources — using production practices that enhance the environment while increasing production efficiency, protecting the public and workers, and continuously improving. Global customers seek SSAP-verified soy, with this past marketing year having 44.48 million metric tons — or 70 percent — of U.S. Soy shipped with an SSAP certificate. The SSAP has been validated by the FEFAC 2021 Soy Sourcing Guidelines, has achieved Silver Equivalency through SAI Platform’s Farm Sustainability Assessment, and is accepted by Best Aquaculture Practices and GlobalGAP.

Companies that source their soy with SSAP verification can brand their products with a Sustainable U.S. Soy logo — which is being used by 93 international companies on about 1,000 SKUs across 18 countries and allows companies to demonstrate their commitment to sustainable sourcing.

What is the importance of the SSAP Transferable Certificate, both domestically and globally?

AR: SSAP transferable certificates were developed in response to customer requests. It allows customers to keep records of their sustainable U.S. Soy purchases, use these purchases to meet their ESG goals, and report on their progress toward those goals. Importers will be able to receive a certificate in their name from an exporter; the importer will then be able to transfer certificates to their customers. The certificate has the potential to be transferred a total of four times after export.

This article was funded in part by U.S. Soy farmers, their checkoff and the soy value chain.