Sustainability Initiatives - Soya Bean

Round Table on Responsible Soy Association (RTRS)


Introducing the international soy supply chain

Soy beans, oil, soy-based meals and biofuels are all products for which there is a strong global demand, due to the changes in food habits and increased consumption in different parts of the World, significantly for example in Europe and South East Asia.

Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Bolivia are the main producers of soy beans in South America, contributing some 60% of world export in 2006. Soy is also a key crop in other latitudes, of which the United States of America is the most important producer. The main consuming markets are Asia (China, 43%, Japan, 6%), Europe (The Netherlands, 6.5%, Germany, 5.5%) and Latin America (Mexico, 6 %).

While soy is one of the largest sources of income and foreign currency, boosting both employment and development in producing countries, it also entails extensive cultivation and the expansion of agricultural frontiers. Due to the rapid growth of soy farming in Latin America (with an average growing rate of some 10% a year), it has environmental and social costs to be considered. The environmental issues range from deforestation and water pollution to soil erosion and loss of biodiversity. Soy expansion further generates social conflicts and tension between producers and local communities concerning for example land rights, labour rights and rural migration.

While the impacts of soy production vary from one country to another - according to regional and local characteristics - there are common threats to ecosystems and biological diversity in most cases and similar economic and social tensions.

History and founding of the RTRS Association

The particular social and environmental risks that accompany the expansion of soy production and consuming prompted a group of concerned producers, NGO's and companies to gather together in London in 2004 to discuss and envisage a responsible production of soy and soy supply chain that will anticipate and prevent potential negative impacts. This initiative has had an international status from the start and members of the RTRS are convinced that only through a collective and international effort the excesses of an expanding soy supply chain can be minimized and/or be resolved together with sustaining benefits for local population, producers and the soy value chain.

March 2005 the first international roundtable conference took place, back then called the Global Roundtable on Sustainable Soy Conference (RSS), in Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil, that brought together, for the first time, all the representatives of the soy supply chain. Gathered together from all over the world were big and small soy producers, soy processors, input suppliers, industry and trade, government and environmental organizations, the indigenous and scientific communities, and investors.

The following year, 2006, various important events took place in the young history of the RTRS, starting with the Technical Workshop in São Paulo, Brazil, from April 26 to 28. The goal of the workshop was to inform and identify the key impacts, index (dis)agreement among participants and gather topics of which there was insufficient data available. The idea was to develop a list of 9 key social, environmental and economic impacts of soy production to be used as a starting point for further research and it initiated the search for the development of a standard in the soy sector.

The Second Roundtable Conference ‘From problems to solutions', from August 31 to September 2, 2006, in Asunción, Paraguay, hosted the presentation of numerous innovative experiences from soy producing countries such as Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Bolivia, Uruguay, India and China, together with proactive experiences and case studies from the perspectives of consumer nations. Working Group participants also debated the way forward for the Initiative, arriving at a consensus in principle on the need to consolidate the RTRS into the future by generating the "Asunción Declaration" which contain the previous mentioned and more worked out 9 draft principles of the RTRS.

November 2006, the Organizing Committee meets in Rolle, Switzerland, agree on the Draft Principles (Asunción Declaration) and establish the RTRS as a non-profit association under Swiss law.

May 8-9, 2007, during the first General Assembly, an Executive Board was elected that substituted the Organizing Committee that thus far supervised the initial stages of the RTRS while there was no formal institutional framework yet. At the same time the Principles and Criteria Development Group was formed to further develop a standard for the soy supply chain.

The key RTRS objectives

Based on current trends, the soy sector is likely to continue its rate of growth. It is therefore of key importance that this expansion be carried out within a sustainable framework. In order to achieve this goal, it is fundamental that a global definition on sustainable soy production should be developed. It is also important that better management practices (BMPs) will be adopted by the soy industry that address economic, social, and environmental concerns, in accordance with this definition.

The aim to have a more harmonious and fair equilibrium in soy agriculture, socially and environmentally, is an ongoing task and needs constant care and attention. RTRS is dedicated to the task of improving the soy supply and value chain and collectively try to anticipate and prevent negative impacts. In order to achieve a sustainable framework, the Global Roundtable on Responsible Soy pursues the following objectives:

  • Facilitate a global dialogue on soy that is economically viable, socially equitable and environmentally sound.
  • Reach consensus among key stakeholders and players linked to the soy industry.
  • Act as Forum to develop and promote a standard of sustainability for the production, processing, trading and use of soy.
  • Promote and replicate sustainable soy pilot projects.
  • Act as an internationally recognized Forum for the monitoring of global soy production in terms of sustainability.

Mobilize diverse sectors interested in participating in the Global Roundtable process and organize Roundtable Conferences on a periodical basis. 

Participation in the Roundtable on Responsible Soy

The RTRS gladly welcomes support of our efforts towards sustainable and responsible soy by
  • Members of the soy industry and value chain throughout the world.
  • Any person in a position to contribute to the improvement of responsible soy production standards.
  • Parties concerned about the economic, social and environmental aspects of soy production.
  • Any person who believes that it is our duty towards future generations to preserve valuable natural resources.

As mentioned before, the RTRS distinguishes between participating members and observing members. Any organisation or individual that has direct involvement in the soy supply chain -or associated NGO-, is welcome and encouraged to apply for RTRS participative membership. Individuals or organisations such as regulatory authorities, governmental agencies, consulting and auditing firms, academia and donor organisations that are not part of one of the constituencies Producer, Industry, trade & finance or NGO are more than welcome to apply as observing members.

All (new) members should be committed to make the soy supply chain more responsible and implements and follows up on the global multi-stakeholder process that promotes responsible production, processing, trading and consumption of soy. Furthermore, all members acknowledge their membership of the RTRS Association, its objectives, Statutes and Bylaws, the Principles, Criteria and indicators and its respective national interpretations and implementation process through informed and explicit endorsement. Finally, members promote and communicate this commitment throughout their own organisation and to their customers, suppliers, sub-contractors and other relevant actors.

The application and admission of new members is at the discretion of the Executive Board. See the Bylaws for the complete details on the rights and duties of members and what the requirements of the RTRS are.


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