Often called the “King of Beans,” soybeans are one of the only plant-based protein sources with nine essential amino acids and serve as an important source of protein for both humans and animals, with 85% of global supply becoming animal feed.
Since the 1960s, growth in the global population and demand for meat has driven exponential growth in the sector. In 2017, global production totaled 340 million tonnes, with a retail value of USD 146 billion. The overall market is expected to grow to USD 214 billion by 2025.
While soybeans will continue to be an important commodity for the foreseeable future, the sector faces critical sustainability challenges related to deforestation, biodiversity loss, excessive use of herbicides, and human rights violations.
Voluntary sustainability standards can play a role in achieving sustainability in the sector by encouraging producers to prevent deforestation, enhance ecosystem rehabilitation, and protect rare and threatened species affected by soybean production. They also promote practices that protect basic labour rights and support decent working conditions.
USD 214 billion
By 2025, the soybean market is expected to have a retail value of USD 214 billion.
Three countries account for 80% of soybean production: the United States, Brazil, and Argentina.
Soybean crops occupy 131 million hectares of land, mostly (80%) controlled by large-scale, private operators.
Voluntary sustainability standard (VSS) compliant soybeans accounted for only 1.8% of total production in 2018
In the soybean sector, VSS-compliant production grew by a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 2.62% from 2008 to 2016, accounting for at least 1.62% of total production. By 2018, this share rose to 1.8%, with VSS-compliant soybean production seeing a 6.65% CAGR from 2016 to 2018.
Major soybean processors and traders and their sustainable sourcing of soybeans in 2017
These six large soybean buying and trading companies traded 71.6 million tonnes of soybeans in 2017, accounting for approximately 21% of total consumption. Of this, 4.2 million tonnes were VSS-compliant, which represents 5.8% of their total traded volume in that year.
VSS-compliant soybean volumes in 2018
By 2018 production volume, the largest VSSs in the soybean sector are Round Table for Responsible Soy (4.5 million tonnes), ProTerra Foundation (3.5 million tonnes), and Organic (1.5 million tonnes).
Distribution of soybean production in the top 15 producing countries in 2016
For a high-resolution version of the map, visit: https://cf.iisd.net/ssi/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/soybean-map.jpg