6 November, 2023

Independent study recognises RTRS as a “best-in-class” soy voluntary standard system

RTRS’ holistic standard has once again been lauded as both complete and credible, adding value to the sustainability journey of the soy community through its robust and reliable assurance system.

The study “Setting a new bar for deforestation and conversion free soy in Europe” conducted by the independent research organisation Profundo, at the request of WWF Germany and the Dutch committee of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), evaluated the top 21 soy Voluntary Standard Systems (VSSs) against 60 key sustainability criteria. The 21 VSSs were evaluated based on ecosystem protection, traceability, governance, social concerns, and human rights, with rigorous scrutiny by Profundo and external experts.

The study identified RTRS as the highest-ranked VSS. In almost all categories -including deforestation and conversion, landscape and biodiversity, traceability, and governance- RTRS came out on top.

According to this report, RTRS particularly stands out as a VSS with “appropriate guidelines” regarding the restoration or compensation for protected areas, as well as one that requires producers to share information about natural vegetation and biodiversity in their operating areas with their stakeholders.

As an element of improvement, the report mentions that RTRS’ provisions on the preservation of UNESCO World Heritage Sites and the reintroduction of wild species could be strengthened.

One of the main tenets of RTRS is our roundtable approach and commitment to continuous improvement and to creating meaningful synergies within the soy value chain. We are pleased and motivated to see the overall strong performance of VSS as demonstrated by this study. The results show that almost all standards have become more robust since 2019 (date of the last study) and stress how VSSs that maintain a robust focus on environmental and social criteria can help drive the soy sector and supply chains to transformation. Additionally, they show that VSSs not only ensure legal compliance but also enable companies to improve responsibly their supply chains, fostering long-term benefits for businesses, the environment, and society.

Reports like Profundo’s help identify areas for improvement and stimulate knowledge-sharing within our network. We are proud to be part of the VSS community, which is fostered by constructive dialogue and enhanced by continuous collaboration.

VSSs vis-à-vis the EU Deforestation Regulation

As we approach the date when the EU Regulation on deforestation-free products (EUDR) will be fully enforced, the remaining 15 months before 30 December 2024 are crucial for the soy sector to effectively prepare. According to the findings of the report, VSSs such as RTRS can play an important role in accompanying value chain actors, given that certification or other third party-verified schemes may be used in the EUDR risk assessment procedure.

Additionally, the report “Setting a new bar for deforestation and conversion free soy in Europe” states that sustainability values should not be limited to just deforestation and highlights the importance of blending in responsible chemicals, soil and water management, labour, community relations, and transparent governance into soy supply chains. In this sense, as highlighted in the report, VSSs such as RTRS are not only capable of helping companies comply with EU regulatory basics, but also of fostering a holistic approach to responsible supply chains.

The Profundo report adds to two other recent recognitions. On the one hand, the RTRS Production Standard received the highest rating from the Sustainable Agriculture Initiative Platform (SAI Platform) Farm Sustainability Assessment (FSA), as it was awarded the “gold level” equivalence seal due to its outstanding contribution to improving sustainability in the industry. Additionally, the independent study titled “Mapping  zero deforestation certification and private programs for soybeans farming in Brazil,” funded by the Kingdom of the Netherlands, recognized RTRS as the most comprehensive standard in the fight against deforestation.

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