Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose fund sustainable soy initiative in Brazil

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AUTHOR: Molly Long
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Three of the UK’s biggest supermarket chains have invested in a scheme which supports more sustainable soy cultivation in Brazil.

Tesco, Sainsbury’s, and Waitrose have committed a total of $11 million (around £9M) to the Responsible Commodities Facility (RCF), a new system of financial incentives for farmers that pledge to deforestation – and conversion-free soy production.

With this money, the RCF will provide finance to 36 farms in the Cerrado region of Brazil for four years. This area is among the world’s most biodiverse, but is under threat because of severe deforestation – most of which is driven by expanding soy cultivation.

These farms will produce 75,000 tons of soy annually, and their practices will conserve an estimated 11,000 hectares of native vegetation.

After an initial 12-month trial phase, the RCF is expected to scale the programme up, including hundreds of farmers situated across Brazil.

The Responsible Commodities Facility is run by Sustainable Investment Management, and was designed in partnership with several major international soy buyers.

It is hoped the trial stage will provide valuable insight into how the programme works in practice on farms, while also inspiring other organisations and businesses to lend their support.

James Bailey, Executive Director of Waitrose, said: “The scale of the challenge to halt the loss of biodiverse ecosystems like the Brazilian Cerrado requires innovative new approaches.

“We hope this pilot fund will demonstrate the huge opportunity for green finance to incentivise responsible farming practices that ensure we protect our global forests.”

All three supermarkets have pledged to achieve 100% deforestation – and conversion-free soy by 2025, and are now urging other supermarkets and businesses to join them in furthering the cause.

Helping farmers to commit to more sustainable practices is a hugely important part of ensuring environmental protections, according to Sustainable Investment Management CEO Pedro Moura Costa.

“Crop finance is a key part of soy farmers’ business models and there is a huge appetite and market for green finance,” he said. “By directing this flow of green finance we can support soy production while rewarding the voluntary conservation of native vegetation.”

Schemes of this kind are becoming increasingly popular as a result. Last month, BCarbon and Future Food Solutions launched a similar support programme for UK farmers, which encouraged them to plant carbon-capturing cover crops through financial incentives.

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