Sustainable soy & oils

We have extended our work on palm oil into other oils, including rapeseed, sunflower and soy oil. We have also set a target for sourcing our soybeans sustainably.

Why do we use soy?

Soy is used in Unilever products as soybean oil in spreads, mayonnaise, dressings and pasta sauces and to a lesser extent as soy meal (a protein derived from the bean), in our AdeS drink brand in Brazil. We purchase 1% of the world’s soy.

Soy cultivation is expanding to meet rising demand. In some regions of the world this expansion has been linked to deforestation and loss of biodiversity. We source soy mainly from North America and Latin America, including Brazil.

Responsible soy

We believe the way to make soy cultivation sustainable in the long term is for us to work closely with others – industry leaders, NGOs and other businesses – on developing internationally recognised standards, compliance programmes and certification systems. These will ultimately help protect biodiversity and lead to a more responsible approach to soy cultivation. We will also ensure that we apply our own sustainability principles to the soy we buy.

USLP logoAs part of our Sustainable Living Plan, we have committed to:

  • Source sustainably all soy beans by 2014 and all soy oils by 2020.

Unilever is a founding member of the Round Table on Responsible Soy Association (RTRS), which was set up in 2006 to define sustainability criteria for the cultivation of soy. In 2009 the Round Table accepted the field testing version of the Principles and Criteria for the sustainable cultivation of soy. Following trials in a number of countries, during 2010 the RTRS Standard for Responsible Soy Production was agreed as well as a certification framework to enable producers to gain accreditation.

Following the 2011 introduction of a RTRS certification scheme, in June Unilever bought some of the first available certificates for sustainable soy. Unilever Brazil bought certificates that cover 5 000 tonnes of sustainable soy oil - mainly for use in North and South America and specifically for our dressings and margarine products. See Press Release for more.

Sustainable rapeseed & sunflower oil

We purchase around 2% of the world’s supply of rapeseed oil and 2% of sunflower oil for use in our spreads and dressings.

USLP logoAs part of our Sustainable Living Plan, we have committed to source all our rapeseed oil and sunflower oil sustainably by 2020.

We are in the process of developing sustainable rapeseed supply chains. During 2009, in partnership with food and agriculture company Cargill, we set up a pilot study to assess the sustainability of farming practices in Germany, the world’s largest producer of rapeseed.

Seventeen farms participated during 2010. This study was the first step in a programme which established the conditions and criteria for sustainable winter oilseed rape. Findings are now being incorporated into our continuing partnership with Cargill.