Identifying drivers for soy and cattle producers to become more sustainable

Identifying drivers for soy and cattle producers to become more sustainable

Climate Focus, on behalf of the Meridian Institute, conducted a study to identify major drivers or incentives that lead producers to change management and production practices to more sustainable operations. The project encompassed cattle and soy in Latin America.

This project built on Climate Focus’ experience working on zero-deforestation supply chains, such as the Commodities and Forests Agenda 2020 and a background paper for the Prince of Wales International Sustainability Unit. Our previous work provided us a strong understanding of corporate commitments and their barriers to success and our reviews of progress towards these efforts have been sobering. It is clear that overcoming the implementation challenges of commitments will require better support and partnership across the supply chain.

Overall, we found that: 

  • Commitments in the beef sector refer to general pledges to end deforestation and improve traceability, while commitments in the soy sector focus on specific approaches towards implementation such as certification and moratoria. 
  • Where specific implementation tools are explicitly mentioned as part of a commitment, such as certification and moratoria in the soy sector, commitments are more likely to be passed on to the producer level to achieve the desired effect. 
  • The Brazilian soy sector is more integrated, and financial and technical capacity barriers are less pronounced than in the beef sector which enhances the ability of companies to translate commitments into results at the producer level.
  • In the beef sector, the majority of commitments have been made by upstream companies (e.g. manufacturers and retailers) in Brazil, while slaughterhouses mostly rely on sectoral agreements to address deforestation. Many companies limit their commitment or sourcing criteria to the last farm before slaughtering. The scope of these commitments fails to capture deforestation in earlier stages of production (e.g. breeding) where it is most rampant. 
  • None of the cattle related commitments made by multinational companies specifically refer to Colombia, which may be due to a lesser exposure of the Colombian cattle and dairy sector to international markets and - until recently - lesser NGO pressure and general awareness of the link between commodities and deforestation in Colombia compared to Brazil. 
  • A lack of agreed definitions and reporting formats constraints limit the ability to comprehensively assess progress in implementing and impact of corporate commitments. Moving forward, civil society initiatives such as the Accountability Framework will play an important role in providing harmonized definitions and tools to implement and monitor corporate commitments, but collaboration will be needed to ensure that the elements of the Framework are adapted to local circumstances and adoption is brought to scale.

This project is supported on the ground in Brazil by Imaflora.


Release Date

May 2019

Team Members

Haseeb Bakhtary
Juan Pablo Castro
Senior Manager Latin America
Luis C. Cote
Franziska Haupt
Managing Partner
Simon König
Managing Partner
Ingrid Schulte
Associate Senior Consultant