Our Soy program aims to reduce deforestation by making responsible soy production mainstream. We increase both the demand for, and supply of, responsible soy through linking the market players to producers.

In 2018, 369 million tonnes of soy were produced, mainly in Brazil, Argentina and the USA. As the second largest importer of soy globally, Europe imported 34 million tonnes of soy. Soy production has been (indirectly) associated with deforestation in producing regions, alongside other serious social and environmental issues.

Taking a stepwise approach, IDH focuses on three main targets: to raise the bar of sourcing guidelines to incorporate zero-net-deforestation; to have 50% of European soy import responsible by 2020 (100% by the CGF companies); to develop a direct sourcing connection between the end buyer and producing region.

The IDH soy market program

The IDH soy market program aims to increase market uptake of sustainable soy in Europe and other large domestic markets, and link sustainable soy farming directly to market players to deliver on sustainability/deforestation pledges.

We work with parties throughout the downstream supply chain, including the European Feed sector (90% of soy imports) – feed associations, retailers & manufacturers and traders. As increased demand is key to reducing deforestation and promoting good agricultural practices in producing countries. The strategy is comprised of three tiers:

  • Convening public-private partnerships at European and national levels, to enable shared governance of targets on sustainable sourcing, to strengthen policy frameworks and create an enabling environment which supports the mainstream uptake of sustainably produced soy. IDH convenes European countries, companies and civil society in the soy supply chain, in close collaboration with the European Feed Manufacturers’ Federation (FEFAC) and the Amsterdam Declaration Partnership (ADP). Together, we aim to transform the market and achieve 50% responsible soy in Europe by 2020.
  • Publishing periodic market data reports on the uptake of sustainably produced soy to monitor the delivery on targets by governments, companies and sec­tors. The first responsible soy monitoring report in collaboration with IUCN NL, will be published soon (April 2019). The report states – In 2017, 22% of the soy used in Europe was FEFAC-SSG compliant, and 13% deforestation-free. This demonstrates that the demand for sustainably produced soy needs to increase dramatically – the ambitious commitments must be translated to real actions by all relevant sector players, and new, sustainable sourcing solutions need to be developed.
  • Developing strong supply chain connections between the stakeholders on the soy market end and producing countries via the Verified Sourcing Areas (VSA), where sustainable palm oil is produced at increasing levels.

Soy production

We support producers through the IDH landscape program in Mato Grosso, Brazil, where 27 percent of the Brazilian soy is produced. We work as a part of a coalition of public and private sector stakeholders led by the Government of Mato Grosso, the Produce, Conserve and Include (PCI). The PCI plan aims to increase production and decrease deforestation; restore forests and degraded pastures; and enhance social inclusion. To implement this state plan at a local level, IDH is developing PCI regional compacts in high-deforestation risk regions in the Amazon and Cerrado biomes. (A compact is an agreement between public and private parties around a predefined area to produce sustainably and conserve natural resources.) Regional compacts will result in multi-sector formalized, long-term sustainable land use and management plans. IDH will support implementation of the plans through co-funding projects, the development of business cases for investors and links to markets. The compact is expected to move towards becoming a Verified Sourcing Area.

In 2011 an agreement was reached between stakeholders in The Netherlands which stated that by the end of 2015, all processed soy would be responsible. This target was not fully achieved; in 2015 44% of the 1.8 MMT of soy processed by the Netherlands was responsible (RTRS), covering all the soy consumed in the country and a small part of the exports. The dairy sector is the only sector that sources 100% responsible soy.

In 2011, only a few producers were RTRS certified. So to create sufficient supply of responsible soy, IDH started the Soy Fast Track Fund I + II, a producer support program. This ended mid 2016, achieving 2.4 million hectares under sustainable management, of which 0.5 million hectares RTRS certified in Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil. Over 1.000 producers received support, and IDH proved that producing in an environmentally and socially sustainable way is also economically viable, as certification is a great management tool, it mitigates risks and has proven to be very positive for real estate value. Please find a selection of learning documents here. In 2014, IDH initiated the Soy Fast Track Fund III projects, which are seven projects prototyping a landscape approach in Brazil and Paraguay.

To accelerate cost efficient sourcing of responsible soy, IDH supported the development of the FEFAC Soy Sourcing Guidelines and benchmark. The FEFAC Guidelines are a list of 57 criteria, with a baseline of legal compliance and a structure that promotes continuous improvement on the farm. Currently 13 schemes have been benchmarked.

During this period, three key insights emerged that would change the shape of the program. Firstly, a study with KPMG made clear that 95% of the RTRS compliance costs in Brazil are related to legal compliance. Secondly, on farm certification does not guarantee that deforestation in the region will stop. And lastly, a physical supply chain connect between market and production is needed to drive improvements – book & claim is not enough. This is why part of the soy program is now integrated with the landscape program in Mato Grosso.

Facts and figures

  • Uptake rate of sustainable production by program partners (percentage)

    Target 2018 50
    Result 2018 22
    Cumulative target 2020 80
    Cumulative result 2016-2018 22
  • Uptake rate of sustainable production (% FEFAC-SSG compliant soymeal)

    Target 2018 37
    Result 2018 22
    Cumulative target 2020 50
    Cumulative result 2016-2018 22
  • Private-sector (sustainability) investments in the program (in million euro)

    Target 2018 0
    Result 2018 0
    Cumulative target 2020 0
    Cumulative result 2016-2018 7

Contact us for more information

Relevant SDGs

  • Responsible consumption and production
  • Life on land
  • Partnerships for the goals


Title Type Year Regions TAF
European Soy Monitor 2021 Report 2023 Europe Landscapes Program
SDM Case Study: Griffin Services, Zambia Report 2023 - -
European Soy Monitor Report Report 2022 Europe Landscapes Program
AGRI3 Sector Analysis Paper: Sustainability Interventions Roadmap for Soybeans and Cattle Report 2022 Latin American Agri3
AGRI3 Sector Paper Brazil – Soy and beef Report 2022 - -
European Soy Monitor Report 2019 Report 2021 - -