CSI-ProTerra joint webinar: Soy and Carbon

The webinar took place on 28 March and was hosted by Heleen van den Hombergh of CSI (the Collaborative Soy Initiative), who gave the opening presentation on CSI’s work in the soy market. She then gave the floor to Emese van Maanen, director at the ProTerra Foundation. Emese stressed that carbon emissions are a major contributor to climate change and that to be competitive, companies need to be prepared to comply with regulatory and stakeholder requirements and that carbon reporting should also be used as a risk management strategy.

Doutzen Wagenaar of ENSI introduced key concepts, highlighting that many companies are publicly committed to reducing their carbon emissions through Science Based Targets (SBTi). She emphasised the need for companies to report in accordance with the Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD). Doutzen explained that Life Cycle Assessments (LCA) are used to determine the carbon footprint of soy. She also explained that land use change has a significant impact on soy production and presented the different methodologies used to discount land use change: linear and equal. Additionally, Doutzen highlighted the challenges companies face in reporting and underscored the importance of primary data and chain of custody models.

Theun Vellinga and Frank Gort of Wageningen University & Research began by saying that climate change is a fact and that emissions from feed production are almost as high as those from livestock production. Theun explained that LCA is a well-established method for calculating the footprint of soy, but that there are still some questions about allocation, land use change and the use of primary data. Regarding allocation, Theun clarifies that in the end, allocation always adds up to 100% of the emissions calculation. Since the total demand for soy and feed protein affects land use change, as a solution, he suggests considering reducing the demand for feed protein by reducing animal consumption by consumers and, for example, using more synthetic amino acids. Theun concludes that responsible soy production means reducing the demand for feed proteins, switching to green energy and emphasising the importance of primary data as a crucial aspect of reporting.

Laura Nobel presented the structure of the GFLI and clarified that the GFLI methodology aligns with the FAO LEAP guidelines for feed supply chains and the PEFCR for food-producing animals. Laura explained that the methodology concerning land use change focuses on data from the past 20 years, which is in line with PAS2050. From an LCA perspective, soy cannot be considered completely deforestation-free unless the 20-year arable land use is demonstrated.  Laura also highlighted the importance of company-specific data in this context. She also emphasises the alignment between GFLI, the GHG Protocol and SBTi. She notes that the current understanding is that GFLI members are already using the GFLI database as a fallback option for comprehensive corporate reporting.
Laura explains that branded data offers several benefits, including improved insight into the company’s emissions profile, facilitating sustainability reporting using a recognised methodology, comparing the company’s ingredients to the GFLI database average, providing insight into the supply chain, and supporting marketing and communications initiatives.
Finally, Laura explains that the GFLI branded data is used as a means of benchmarking and reporting ingredients in line with certification schemes.

GMP+, ProTerra and Donau Soja also explored practices and considerations from a standard-setting perspective, focusing on a step-by-step approach to carbon reporting, the importance of collaboration and ultimately assessing whether the market will accept these methodologies. They also emphasised that transparency is essential for effective implementation.
Donau Soja and ProTerra pointed to the role of certification as a valuable tool to support companies in their emissions reporting efforts. Based on their experience, they noted that soy certified to their respective standards has been shown to have lower emissions than non-certified soy. This suggests that compliance with certification standards can make a significant contribution to reducing the environmental impact of soy production.

In conclusion, key takeaways from the webinar include the importance of avoiding tunnel vision in carbon footprinting, the critical nature of reducing emissions, the importance of aligning methodologies and prioritising real impact, and the ongoing effort to work towards integrated holistic sustainability, carbon diversity and good agricultural practices.

For those unable to attend or those wishing to review the webinar, you can access the link here. Additionally, we are pleased to share the PDFs of the individual presentations:

CSIs general intro and technical intro of concepts (Heleen van den Hombergh, Emese van Maane and Doutzen Wagenaar)

Theun Vellinga and Frank Gort- WUR presentation

Laura Nobel-GFLI presentation

ProTerra and Donau Soja examples

For more details please check the CSI website