There are many major concerns about worldwide soy production (85% of which is used for animal feed) such as deforestation of the Brazilian Amazon, unethical labour practices, exposure to pesticides, etc.
The business challenge is the following: What is the best way to develop a responsible soy production that does not increase deforestation, protects biodiversity, gives farmers sufficient income and good working conditions, promotes safe and healthy food and that can be independently verified to increase trust and transparency with consumers?
Building on the societal values from its founder, Philippe Vandemoortele, Alpro developed a comprehensive partnership with its suppliers in Brazil that has grown over the years. Today, it involves many different steps.
First, Alpro works continuously with the same farmers and assures the uptake of the crops. Alpro has always been working with non-GMO soy. In order to reduce risks for farmers and for contamination during the transport to Europe, different preventative measures have been taken, including checking the GMO status of the seed before sowing and ensuring the soy is stored and transported in dedicated silos and containers.
Beyond this, Alpro employs agriculture engineers to advise farmers and there is an active promotion of crop rotation. There is also an open calculation of soybean purchasing price, which makes it possible to guarantee sufficient income as well as support farmers should crop failure occur. Direct contact with farmers is further assured by means of open farmers’ days and the cultivation of organic soy bean is assured by means of the independent EcoSocial certification.
All these practices adhere to the Basel Criteria for Responsible Soy Production. In addition, they include the following critical points: maintaining soil and water quality by introducing better management practices; no use of genetically modified material; minimum wages; fair working conditions; a ban on child or forced labour; safeguarding land rights and participatory land use planning involving stakeholders; monitoring social consequences for the local population and the requirement to favour local employees, products and services; group certification schemes for small farmers; and full traceability throughout the supply chain. The Basel Criteria are verified by the ProTerra Standard and the ProTerra scheme has been applied for.
- It is difficult to assess if there is a higher net cost for Alpro (not including the societal benefits)
- Higher costs for container shipment, third party auditing and verification and support for farmers are being offset by the achieved benefits
- Supporting local farmers in these different ways leads to stronger trade relationships, which increases the partnership
- Assurance in supply of non-GMO soy with good quality
- Full traceability in the supply chain increases product quality
- Societal benefits including protection of the Amazon forest, farmers, etc.