A Step Toward Supply Chain Sustainability: The Round Table on Responsible Soy in Brazil, 2005 – 2017

Full Publication 
Abstract 

In the early 2000s, deforestation accelerated in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest, and global environmental groups began to raise the alarm. Greenpeace, one of the most vocal groups, published a report that placed the blame partly on the soy industry, which had grown rapidly in Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay. In response, industry representatives joined with nongovernmental organizations, financial institutions, supermarkets, and others in the soy supply chain to form the Roundtable on Responsible Soy (RTRS). Following the model of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, which worked to transform the environmentally destructive palm oil industry in Southeast Asia, the RTRS wanted to implement a supply chain certification system to help identify whether harvests came from land deforested without regard for environmental impact and nudge soy farmers into a new era of sustainable production. The roundtable participants successfully developed a standard for responsible practices, and enrolled a number of large farm enterprises. But low demand for certified soy and the high cost of becoming certified slowed progress, especially among smaller producers. As of 2017, less than 1% of soy produced in Brazil was RTRS certified, and uncertified landholders continued to convert important natural ecosystems into soy farms. Although the RTRS succeeded in bringing together key players in the soy industry to talk about sustainability for the first time, it was clear that complementary efforts were necessary to shift the soy industry as a whole toward environmentally friendly production.

 

Keywords 
sustainability
certification
agriculture
Amazon rainforest
Soybeans
Focus Area(s): 
Natural Resources
Critical Tasks: 
Certification systems
Collective action problems
Resource protection & enforcement
Core Challenge: 
Principal-agent problem (delegation)
Country of Reform: 
Brazil
Type: 
Case Studies
Author: 
Blair Cameron