Delegation to the Netherlands signals China’s plans to adopt responsible sourcing

Solidaridad organized a Chinese soy delegation to the Netherlands in April to learn best practices in responsible procurement and consumption in Europe. With the Netherlands as the second largest importing country of soy after China, the participants were able to see how government, industry and financial sector players in the Netherlands are working together to promote sustainable development in the soy sector.

The Chinese soy delegation meets with representatives from the Dutch Ministry of Economic and Foreign Affairs in The Hague.

The trip was part of the ongoing China-South America Sustainable Soy Trade Platform launched in Beijing in 2015 by the Paulson Institute, Solidaridad, the Nature Conservancy and WWF.

Industry leaders from China on a learning journey

The delegation included members from the China National Vegetable Oils Association, China State Council for International Cooperation on Environment & Development (CCICED), the China Soybean Industry Association and four soy companies including Wilmar, Sinograin, Jiusan Group and Hopefull Group. Together these companies account for approximately 30 million metric tons of annual import volume or 35% of the national total.

Denggao Liu, former vice president of the China Soybean Industry Association introduced the delegation and spoke about the progress already made in China on sustainable development. Liu remarked that while China’s soy imports continue to grow each year by approximately 4% hitting a record of 86 million tons of import volume in 2016, China is putting greater importance on sustainable development. In 2009, the association worked with Solidaridad to support RTRS in China using a localized standard with Sinograin North.

Dutch stakeholders share successful solutions

In four days, the delegation had numerous in-depth discussions with all key stakeholders of the soy sector. The delegation was first received by the Dutch Ministry of Economic and Foreign Affairs where the participants learned more about the Amsterdam Declaration and the importance of public-private partnerships to promote global sustainable sourcing.

The delegation also met with the Netherlands Oils & Fats Industry Association (MVO), the Association of Dutch Producers of Edible Oils and Fats (VERNOF), and trading companies including CEFETRA and Amaggi Group. Retailers and consumer facing businesses leading the way to promote sustainability such as Unilever and AHOLD Delhaize were also included in the delegation.

The delegation was welcomed by the directors in the Solidaridad office in Utrecht. During the visit, Solidaridad Executive Director Nico Roozen said, “China plays a critical role in promoting sustainable supply chains worldwide. The very fact that a Chinese soy delegation is here in the Netherlands today is a positive sign that China is making sustainability a priority”.

Stakeholder workshops set the example

A half-day workshop on the topic of green finance and soy trade was organized to allow the participants to hear about sustainable finance practices from Rabobank, the ABN AMRO Bank and Cambridge University’s Banking Environment Initiative. A representative from ICBC based in the Netherlands also shared the Chinese bank’s policy on sustainability and expressed keen interest in learning the best practices on green finance from its Dutch counterparts.

In the afternoon, the delegation met representatives from the European Feed Association  (FEFAC) and the Netherlands Feed Association (NEVEDI), followed by a visit to Vitelia Feed Factory. Ruud Tijssens, President of FEFAC presented their sustainable soy sourcing guidelines that are currently used as a benchmark to facilitate mainstreaming responsible sourcing in Europe and Brazil. Liu, head of the Chinese delegation, stated the Chinese soy sector needs to develop similar sustainable sourcing guidelines.

Developing sustainable sourcing guidelines for China

Shengjun Yang, General Manager of Jiusan Group, Guangxi Branch talked about the definition of sustainability and it is still seen as a broad concept in China. “We need to incorporate sustainability into the supply chain and to standardize our practices in trade and implementation. We saw how the Dutch government, associations, companies and finance are all very advanced and working together on this already. For this, we also need NGOs like Solidaridad, TNC and WWF,” Yang said.

This trip represents the first direct meeting between soy industry leaders in both China and Netherlands to share vision and strategies on promoting sustainable soy production and trade worldwide. At the final meeting, the Chinese delegation shared their great appreciation for the fact that all key stakeholders in the Netherlands have developed well-established policies and procedures to promote sustainable soy trade.

At the end of the trip, the delegates indicated they will adopt a Chinese sustainable sourcing guideline and continue the discussion with influential leaders in both Europe and South America to develop a global consensus on sustainable production and trade. Solidaridad and the China-South America Sustainable Soy Trade Platform are eager to facilitate that process.

Learn more about Solidaridad's global soy programme.