The Bel Group collects some 1.7 billion liters of milk a year from 3,200 dairy producers, who farm close to its production sites. As major player in dairy products, and aware of its duty to environmental conservation, the Group is resolutely committed to sustainable dairy production.
After joining the RTRS (Round Table on Responsible Soy) in 2014, the Bel Group will now take the next step and commit from 2015 to buying 100% RTRS certificates to cover the 44,500 tons of soy used in cow feed by its dairy producers across Europe (in France, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovakia, and Poland).
This commitment is in line with dynamics of the partnership Bel signed with the WWF in 2012. The WWF has assisted the Group in identifying environmental challenges related to dairy cow feed and has offered guidance for taking concrete actions. Among key animal feed raw materials, soy is seen by the Group as a priority in the effort to lower the ecological footprint of its products.
“Bel is the first French dairy company to publicly commit to responsible soy,” said Christophe Roturier, the Scientific Director of WWF France. “Buying certificates is the first step toward procuring sustainably produced soy. This commitment helps support the efforts of soy growers involved in the RTRS initiative and encourages those who have not already joined them. The greater the number of actively involved growers, the more effective our initiative will be against deforestation.”
Soy production is known to have negative environmental impacts, particularly in Argentina and Brazil, where farmland conversion threatens the Amazon rainforest and the Cerrado savanna. In addition, poor working conditions for farmhands are often associated with soybean farming.
To make its commitment more meaningful, the Bel Group is supporting a field project to help soy farmers in Brazil’s Mato Grosso state obtain RTRS certification through the adoption of more sustainable practices.
“These are the first steps of our commitment to promote and to take action in favor of sustainable dairy production,” said Magali Sartre, Bel’s External Communication and Public Affairs Director. “To go further, we are currently quantifying the soy volumes used by the rest of our farmers — for example, in the United States — and we are assessing the impact of those volumes on biodiversity. Starting in 2016, Bel has committed to covering 100% of its soy volumes worldwide by buying RTRS certificates.”
With the WWF, the Bel Group is also exploring the feasibility of using soy alternatives in France as a complementary solution to buying RTRS certificates to lower its ecological footprint.
The Round Table on Responsible Soy (RTRS)
Founded in Switzerland in 2006, the RTRS is an organization of multiple stakeholders aimed at facilitating the emergence of soy farming that is economically viable, socially equitable and environmentally correct.The RTRS has developed a standard for responsible soy production with demands for preserving high value conservation lands, adopting farming best practices, guaranteeing equitable working conditions, and respecting land rights.The RTRS is a global initiative that now has 181 members in both soy producing and soy importing countries. At the end of 2014, over 1.3 million metric tons of RTRS-certified soy were purchased, marking an increase of more than 50% versus 2013.
Soy farming and deforestation
Soy is the world’s fastest growing farm crop. Over the past 50 years, soybean farming has increased 10-fold, with output climbing from 27 million to 269 million metric tons. This growth has often come with negative environmental impacts.Nearly 80% of global soy is destined for animal feed. In 2014, only 2% to 3% of world production was RTRS-certified.The ratio of soy in dairy cow feed is low. It is added because of its high protein content.
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