Deforestation in the Amazon

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Some of Britain’s leading retailers and food businesses have pledged to eliminate products linked to deforestation and habitat destruction from their soy supply chains by 2025.

The group – which includes Sainsbury’s, Morrisons and Nestlé – accounts for almost 60% of all soy purchases made by UK businesses each year, primarily through their animal feed supply chains.

Tesco CEO Ken Murphy described the move as a “critical milestone” in the fight against habitat destruction.

The agreement, titled the UK Soy Manifesto, commits each company to write the 2025 deadline into commercial contracts and publicly share details of their progress.

While British soy imports account for a small proportion of the global total, in 2017 British-bound soy was sourced from plantations on razed jungle with a combined land area around twice that of the City of London, according to the manifesto.

Hannah Cormick, head of sustainability at Danone UK & Ireland, said the manifesto is “vital to addressing the climate crisis”. WWF CEO Tanya Steele called it a “chance for real change”.

But some environmental groups criticised the manifesto for failing to go as far the Retail Soy Group’s roadmap, published last month.

Campaigners praised last month’s roadmap for acknowledging that supermarkets must not look to “develop niche supply chains” that deliver deforestation-free soy while ignoring the wider problem. This vital detail is absent from the latest manifesto, according to Robin Willoughby, director of Mighty Earth.

“British supermarkets could have gone much further,” he said. “This announcement fails to match an agreement on a gold standard that these same supermarkets committed to only a month ago.”

Greenpeace UK dismissed the manifesto as a “greenwash” and said big players directly involved in deforestation, such as Cargill, can keep selling to British retailers.

“Supermarkets will continue to buy from forest destroyers as long as the bad stuff is sent elsewhere – it’s just shifting the problem, not helping to solve it,” said Anna Jones, Greenpeace UK’s head of food and forests.

Vast areas of forest and jungle across Central Africa, Latin America and Southeast Asia have been cleared in recent decades for logging and for cash crops such as palm oil, endangering species such as orangutans and Sumatran tigers.

Over half the world’s tropical forests have been “destroyed” since the 1960s, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, which estimates that over 1.5 billion people worldwide depend on the remaining forest area for their livelihoods.