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Paving the way for a deforestation-free soy value chain

“It is a very complex process but we are happy with the system that we have in place today and the risk of contamination is very low,” Patricia Sugui, ESG manager at CJ Selecta, told

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Patricia Sugui, ESG manager at CJ Selecta
April 9, 2024

In 2021, three Brazilian soy suppliers to the Norwegian salmon industry decided to become 100% deforestation-free and conversion-free. CJ Selecta was one of these companies that decided to end the trade of deforestation-linked soy.

“Even though we have been selling non-GMO, certified soybeans to Norway for more than a decade, we know that the industry would like to raise the bar with sustainability commitment and standards to protect the Amazon and have sustainable sourcing in a long-term perspective. We agreed that it was a good cause for the sustainability and the business itself,” Patricia Sugui, ESG manager at CJ Selecta, told at the Noth Atlantic Seafood Forum (NASF).

The company has set in place many tools and programs, such as satellite monitoring, to deliver a deforestation-free supply chain and achieved the goal ahead of the initial schedule. “It is a very complex process but we are happy with the system that we have in place today and the risk of contamination is very low,” Sugui explained.

“CJ Selecta is being audited by third party bodies to ensure that all operations (GMO and non-GMO) are zero deforestation verified according to MRV (Monitoring Verification Report ) standard set by Proterra Foundation. We have a monitoring, reporting and verification system in place and we are glad to say that we can make it possible to deliver sustainable soy from Brazil,” Sugui said. “Not only CJ Selecta is working on this commitment, all the three other suppliers of soy protein concentrate to Norway are working on the same way.”

What have been the main challenges? “The main challenges are engagement in the indirect supply chain because there is some risk of contamination of the forest soy in some warehouses in Brazil. All the soy logistics were made to be cheap and affordable and it makes it difficult to trace the plot of land, the exact farm that a bulk of vessel receives. The logistics of the business make things hard to address, to trace, however, it has been possible because operating with non-GMO soybeans is segregated. It is about partnership and engaging people in a different agenda,” Sugui said.

When it comes to farmers, Sugui said that they want to do the right thing but sometimes they don’t have access to good advisors or alternatives for a resilient agriculture. “Sometimes they could rent some areas that they don't know used to have problems in the past. It is a huge country. That is why we place so much effort on working with and monitoring our farmers,” Sugui said.

Government support

The Brazilian government has started an initiative to support this complex task. The government is working on a public platform where farmers will be able to upload their farm information, geolocation, and all environmental checks. It will be an official platform for transparency, not only for soy but for agriculture commodities in general. It is being pushed by the EU Deforestation Free Regulation (EUDR), but it is not for EUDR.

“This is a huge step for Brazilian agriculture. CJ Selecta is a kind of benchmark for it. We have a pilot on how to do this. The challenge is how to scale up for a huge company, that is why the support from the government is very welcome,” Sugui said.

When asked if a kind of standardization of the process by an independent organization would help, Sugui agrees. “In order for the industry to align the speech, the perception, and the claim of what really is deforestation-free, conversion-free, a universally agreed standard, approved by an independent organization would make much sense.”

The EU deforestation law

In 2022, the European Commission launched an initiative to tackle deforestation with a new regulation that makes it mandatory for companies to verify that goods sold in the European Union have not been produced on deforested or degraded land.

“CJ Selecta is ready to deliver traceable soy for Norway and non-GMO soybeans,” Sugui said. “However, all Brazilian companies are really concerned about the timing of implementation and how things are going to happen. It is not clear to us how Europe will monitor and ask for transparency. It's a big problem for us to commit in December 2024. We need to find a way in a sectorial table because companies cannot do it alone.”

Sustainability goals

In terms of sustainability, CJ Selecta is committed to reducing its CO2 emissions in all operations. “We are fully dedicated to answering not only our customers but society, what they want to have in their dishes and tables. We are closely in contact with the NGOs and associations to know how to be competitive and also be compliant with all our existing regulations globally,” Sugui said.

One important goal is to reduce CO2 emissions on the farm and the company is investing time, effort and money, and also through partnerships. “We are making many efforts in regenerative agriculture programs to reduce our Scope 3 emissions,” she said.

Reducing the carbon footprint, added to the non-deforestation narrative, will add more value to soy and also access certain markets with more specific requirements. “CJ Selecta currently has access to markets by being different from the average but, in the long term, there is no way to sustain agriculture doing business as usual,” Sugui said.

Looking forward

In the medium and long term, Sugui said that deforestation is possible to solve but the challenge is to keep it. “Be zero is something really challenging. You are not allowed to be 0.1, it should be zero and this is the challenge.”

But there are other challenges such as social impacts, human rights, and livelihoods, and also water footprint and biodiversity. “Beyond carbon footprint and deforestation, it is climate change. It can have a huge impact on the production of soy in Brazil,” Sugui concluded.