Consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies across the globe are continually looking deeper into their supply chains for responsible and sustainable sourcing opportunities. They are looking for suppliers that share their values, and they need information to show consumers that they are a brand worth purchasing and trusting.
The U.S. soybean industry collects an enormous amount of data about how we run our business, from the field to the market. This information, in the proper format, can help CPG and food companies improve their sustainability stories. Given the right partnerships, the U.S. Soy sustainability platform can help food companies protect their reputation and grow their businesses.
This report provides a broad scan of the current U.S. Soy industry as it impacts international soybean purchasers and guides the work of the United Soybean Board and U.S. Soybean Export Council. Each target area section provides a summary of the market condition and considers challenges and opportunities identified for meal, oil and sustainability. In this section, our focus is on sustainability.
U.S. SOY SUSTAINABILITY
Sustainability started as an environmental stewardship movement based on the concept of using natural resources responsibly to preserve them for future generations. Initially, concerns centered around water use, emissions and waste. For our part, the responsibility of the soybean industry was in decreasing our inputs, water, fertilizers, fuel, pesticides, etc.
However, this early definition of sustainability has evolved. Sustainability now includes deforestation, other biodiversity issues, land use rights and working conditions.
While our competitors are struggling with some of these issues on a global scale, for U.S. Soy, our challenges are more localized. For example, one U.S. growing region may have requirements for a watershed area or a protected habitat for a local species. But generally speaking, sustainability is where U.S. Soy has a competitive advantage.
U.S. farmers have long embraced environmental best practices on their farms to lower costs and for the value it gave to their products, their land and future generations of their own families. Many U.S. soybean farms have been handed down from one generation to the next, each generation having a responsibility to use resources wisely to protect them and ensure the land’s viability for decades to come.
This commitment to responsible farm practices is why our customers and end users choose U.S. Soy. They know that the U.S. Soy industry invests heavily in research and data to help us do more with less, growing soybeans more efficiently.
Our data is critical to our buyers because the world is putting pressure on them to also create more with less throughout their supply chain. They need products and ingredients that help them support their story, and that’s where U.S. Soy has an advantage.
CPGs need our help to tell the story. U.S. Soy can and will be a partner to help CPGs and other end users share their positive sustainability story.
Consumers want to know where their food comes from, and they want assurance that the person who produced their food shares their values. They want to know their food producers care about the environment and in reducing their impact to make the world a better place for future generations. This is the story U.S. Soy can tell every day, and every day we’re working to make it an even better story.
Investments in programs like Take Action have the potential to make an incredible and positive impact. Take Action, a farmer-focused education platform designed to help farmers manage herbicide, fungicide and insect resistance, puts the power of knowledge and recommended best management practices into their hands when making purchases and planning decisions for the next planting season. Take Action is a program developed not because farmers were told to do it, but because it is good for the farmers, good for the land and good for the product.This is part of the sustainability story we have to tell.
U.S. farmers have a lot of data — technology has allowed for many of the pieces of on-farm equipment to generate and track data like never before. Add to that the research and data we gather as an industry through checkoff-funded projects, and information is abundant. The challenge is how we use that data to not only improve the work we do but also how we share the data in a meaningful way. The data show how the improvements we are making as an industry, and from farm to farm, make U.S. Soy a sustainable, responsible choice.
Looking ahead, U.S. Soy knows the value our data can have for CPGs as part of their sustainability stories. We’ll need to find better ways to connect data sources and have them align so it’s easier to share information with our buyers in a way they can easily communicate with their customers. We need to aggressively stay “tuned in” to the fast paceof technology and the potential impact on farms.
In the U.S., we are fortunate to have an exceptional infrastructure system as a competitive advantage, which includes extensive railways, waterways and byways. Efficient infrastructure reduces the impact transportation has on U.S. sustainability data. But our transportation system has been working very hard for many, many years. U.S. Soy remains committed to continuous improvement of our infrastructure system, which is critical to meeting the needs of U.S. Soy customers worldwide.
U.S. Soy’s Story
Trust has become quite a valuable part of thebrand and product.
CPGs are looking for partners to defend their reputations. When we protect our reputation, we protect those who buy from us. When we reduce our environmental footprint, we reduce that of those who buy from us. We should be more aggressive in understanding the reputation and need of our end users and customers.
One trending practice leading international customers and CPGs to source soy from high-risk areas is the adoption of standards and certifications. There is a laundry list of them: RTRS, 2BS, ISCC and RSPO, etc. The certification programs provide rules and criteria farmers must follow. When followed, the certification story follows the chain of custody to the repository, and the end user receives assurance that what they receive is a sustainable product.
Around the globe, U.S. sustainability is verified by the U.S. Soy Sustainability Assurance Protocol (SSAP), an aggregate, quantifiable third-party verification process for sustainable soybean production.1The SSAP provides assurance for international buyers who are seeking a verification of sustainability by ensuring a compliance with a national system of laws and regulations. With more than 95 percent of U.S. soybean farmers participating in SSAP, to date, more than 16 million tons of U.S. Soy has been certified.1The participation in the program is used to determine the percentage of the U.S. Soy crop that meets the SSAP criteria.
U.S. Soy continues to build on this program by aggressively seeking partnerships and communicating the benefits of SSAP from grower to international soy buyers.
U.S. soybean farmers committed to sustainability long before it became a buzzword for consumers. They didn’t tell their story because their farm management practices were natural and ingrained from generations before them. But with a global focus on environmental responsibility and lessening environmental impact and footprint, U.S. Soy is in a position to help international buyers, CPGs and others tell an incredible story of a commitment to doing more with less and being a good steward of resources.